2019 has been an unusual year with no trips abroad in our campervan and a house move. We have stayed alive and healthy and we spent two months touring Scotland in our campervan, learning to love that country even more and visiting Shetland for the first time, leaving a little bit of our hearts there. Financially it has been good too. We have stayed within budget; in 2019 our household spending was as low as £22,428. The ONS calculate that the average household in the north-west of England spent £26,062 a year in 2017-2018. Of course, this average will include large families and single-person households, households that have expensive hobbies [like a campervan], those who are home all day and people who have little money or are super-frugal. Although we don’t consider ourselves to be average, we generally aim to spend less than this average. I had hoped that our frugal fail in 2018 was a blip [we spent over £28,000] and it certainly seems that we have got back on track in 2019.
Despite the rigour of my spreadsheets, our annual spending creates a graph that looks like a roller coaster and this does make a bit of a joke of the budgeting we do. Over the last nine years our spending has ranged over £6,000 from £21,972 to £28,107, not allowing for inflation. All this information really tells me is there are expensive years and cheaper years and that our budget for 2020 of around £26,000 doesn’t look too unrealistic. What is interesting is that our 2019 spending of £22,428 is our next to lowest spending year [and a rough online inflation calculator suggests that £21,972 in 2011 is now the equivalent of over £27,000] so for us 2019 has been a frugal year.
This household spending does gloss over the £36,000 plus that has disappeared from our savings and been spent on our recent house move and the improvements to bring our 1960s bungalow into the 21st century. It seemed fair to leave out these one-off costs as they would have massively skewed the figures but it also seemed best to fess up about this spending here. Of course before we took the plunge of moving we did the sums and, although when our pensions start paying in 2026 we will have considerably less savings in the bank, we felt it was an outlay that was manageable … but time will tell. The move became essential for our well-being and we are reasonably comfortable that we will have enough of an emergency fund to take us into our old age. Who knows what will happen with the cost of care by the time we are in our 80s and whether we will need any. We certainly won’t have much money spare for anything expensive but we live in hope that a fair system will be in place by then.
Our own expensive hobby of running a campervan and having lots of holidays continues and this is generally our downfall. If we never went anywhere our spending would be much lower! Everyone spends their money in their own way, this is how our 2019 spending pans out:
Essentials – total £7,721 [35% of total spending] [2018 £9,654 / 34%]
Food – £3,491 [2018 £3,870] – This is an essential but also an easy area to control and after the shock of 2018 we have been careful to use the cheaper supermarkets. We cook mostly from scratch, including making bread, only ever buy what we need and rarely waste anything. We now have a garden but don’t expect to start growing food, as this doesn’t really work with taking a long holiday.
Utilities, insurance & service charges for a 2-bed 58 sq mtrs [624 sq feet] flat for 10 months & a 2-bed 57.2 sq mtrs [615.7 sq feet] bungalow for 2 months – £3,974 [2018 £4,841] – We have been home more than previous years but try and restrain our use of the heating and water. Our bungalow is more expensive to run in terms of utilities than the flat, despite good insulation, so watch this space for 2020. But a big plus of not living in a flat is that we no longer have service charges of over £1,000/year! On the flip-side we are now responsible for the upkeep of our four walls and roof, not to mention a garden, this feels a bit daunting just at the moment.
Our health [including tai chi classes] – £256 [2018 £943] – We had no expensive spectacles or dental work this year, hurrah! We were lucky to find another reasonably priced tai chi class in Morecambe, at £3 each a week this is manageable and we can afford to attend regularly.
Stuff (electronics, newspapers and other kit) – £3,151 [14% of total spending] [2018 £3,333 / 11%]
Household spending [everything from glue and newspapers to parts for the bikes and a new kettle] & miscellaneous un-identified items – £2,300 [ 2018 £2,364] – We are a long way from a no-spend year on stuff but I’m relieved that this spending line is similar to 2018 as I thought that moving house might have spiralled this into another realm as we splashed out on new [to us] curtains, gardening equipment and a Remoska oven.
Clothes & accessories – £851 [2018 £969] – I am really pleased this spending line is lower than last year, particularly when I take into account that over half of this is accounted for by new waterproof jackets. We took a deep breath and bought quality so hope they will last for years and years – maybe until we die?
Experiences – £10,952 [48% of total spending] [2018 14.095 / 51%]
Holidays [our favourite spending line] – £3,601 [2018 £4,681] – Our holiday spending is less than other years as [thanks to the house move] we didn’t get abroad but we did spend a fantastic two months touring Scotland. Factor in the cost of the ferry to Spain in 2018 [about £900] and this line would have pretty much stayed the same; the ferries are really the biggest chunk of our holiday costs. We spent only 108 nights away in our campervan, less than previous years [again due to the house move] but campsites in the UK are often more expensive than mainland Europe. We took ourselves off for 10-days during the house buying process and returned to a pile of paperwork waiting to be signed, after that we hardly dared venture away. This does include a splash-out weekend in a swanky Lake District hotel to celebrate a significant birthday.
Restaurants & cafes – £2,418 [2018 £2,963] – This is another chunk of spending that we can keep under control if we need to but we love meeting friends for meals out and sitting in friendly cafes. So I am surprised [and pleased] this spending is lower than in 2019 as we seem to have been out with friends on plenty of occasions … but the numbers don’t lie!
Running the campervan [servicing & insurance etc] – £1,931 [2018 £2,578] – I was excited to find that moving to Morecambe from Salford reduced our insurance costs on our campervan, although it is no longer parked in a gated car park! 2018 was an expensive year for our ‘van and in 2019 we didn’t take such a hit spending £800 on fixing things on our campervan to keep it on the road. Our ‘van is almost five years old and has driven around 50,000 miles and among other things it needed new brakes and reversing sensors. I think the ‘van might be saving everything up for 2020 though!
Diesel for the above ‘van – £1,500 [2018 £1,937 ] – This is lower due to reduced campervan trips and lower mileage through the year.
Tickets for concerts, football & attractions – £941 [2018 £1,114] – A cheaper year but we have still had lots of fun experiences seeing bands, going to the football and getting face to face with a pine marten.
Transport costs included buses, trains & parking – £561 [2018 £670] – My target to walk 2,019 km in 2019 kept this number down as I was constantly choosing to walk rather than take the tram or bus. We have spent more for the last two months of the year since moving to Morecambe, as not wishing to pollute the world more than we need to we have taken the train to Manchester on all but one occasion.
Giving – £654 [3% of total spending] [2018 £1,025 / 4%]
Gifts & donations – £654 [2018 £1,025] – Another discretionary spending line and we can only hope our family and friends understand why presents, although still thoughtful, have been small in 2019.
TOTAL SPENDING FOR 2019 – £22,478 – staying comfortably within our £26,000 budget helps to give us some financial resilience for future years.