Budgeting & Spending
I have been trying to control our family budget since the beginning of the year (2022). The prices are going up with lightning speed and my family’s needs are also changing and increasing. Like everyone else, we are paying more for gas and electricity. To save on heating in the coming winter, I got myself a thermal top on sale, which I’m planning to use while working from home or studying for my MA.
Baby M. started swimming lessons and since she is still under three, she cannot join a regular class yet and one-to-one lessons are rather pricy. Teenage M. will need support for his growing dyslexic needs from September, which will also increase our spending. When it comes to dyslexia support that the school should provide him with and he is entitled to, it’s frankly non-existent. The school is mega useless and playing the waiting game while hiding their heads in the sand, hoping that, as parents, we will pick up the bill and deal with whatever areas he is struggling with. And you know what? Of course, we will; we believe in our child, unlike the school’s bureaucratic machine. However, that shouldn’t be the case but that’s British for you. We also have some other expenses related to our flat (yes, we live in a flat) that we didn’t have last year. Budgeting for food has become slightly tricky since the prices have been unpredictable from one weekly shopping to another. We shop around, don’t buy anything costly, and make a weekly shopping list to track what we need. As a family, we hate wasting food, so virtually everything we buy needs to be eaten.
My urban garden has been producing fruits and vegetables but not near enough to allow us to live off that. The positive is that Baby M. got into a routine of picking strawberries every morning, regardless of how ready those are.
When I analyse our budget from the start of 2022, I can’t see any unusual activities; if anything, we buy less since we need less (eco-minimalism pays off). However, the grocery bills have significantly gone up. Luckily, we now drive an electric car, so we don’t have the added pressure of high petrol prices and because of my part-time job, we don’t have to pay for public transport in London.
As a family, we don’t really spend more than last year. Our budget is still in the range of £3500-£4000 per month. However, we are much more mindful of what we buy than we were last year. I think that is the main reason why our monthly budget has been kept at the same level as last year.
Our current monthly spendings include expensive items such as holidays, travel, kitchen equipment etc., that we buy. We love travelling, which isn’t something we are willing to compromise. In the case of the kitchen equipment and staff for the house, we buy only what we must have for daily use.
Our shopping habits have shifted and as a family, we have become more mindful of where the money is going and shop for bargains even more than we did before. We buy fewer ready-made meals, street foods or coffee when we are out and about.
During May/June, we shopped at the local farmers’ market for freshly and locally produced foods. That was expensive, but freshly and locally produced foods are in the category of things we are unwilling to give up on. I’m not saying we are foodies, but we like good food.
I can genuinely say that we only shop for what we need. I got even more into a habit of thinking about our needs ahead of time. In practice, it means stocking up when items are on sale or on offer, especially the ones we use often.
Still, as a family, we are determined to support small independent businesses and friends’ establishments.
A good habit we have developed recently is prioritising what we have to buy against what we want to, especially for large items that don’t make our weekly grocery shopping list. Also, investing in long-lasting sustainable swaps is something I started introducing last year and strongly believe that these items outlast single-used items and save money in the long run.
Investments for the Uncertain Future
Since I track my investments daily, I have to say that as scary as seeing “-12%” on my personal rate of return was, it didn’t cross my mind to panic and sell everything – quite the opposite (thank you, JLCollins for your ongoing contribution towards my financial education). I kept thinking that markets always go up at the end of the day, and my investments are for the long haul. I’m growing a tree, not a pot of onions. Even though my shares were declining, I still received 1% dividends from my investments in July, which surprised me.
Since the very bottom in May-June, my investments have started picking up, but I’m not getting overly excited. My steady monthly investment was important during that time (adding to my nest egg). If you set up those automatic payments monthly, or however often you get paid, that habit doesn’t feel like any deprivation. It becomes part of your lifestyle choice.
I only wish I had done that in my 20’s. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you need to earn a lot to invest; no, you don’t. You need to be smart about your spendings, respect your time and invest for a lifetime.
For the past two years, I have only been investing in Index Funds; however, recently, diversification has been on my mind a lot. My need to expand is not driven by the wobbly markets but the need to step up my efforts towards financial independence, or rather independence from my part-time job. Every day is precious, and I would love to devote my days to the things I genuinely love doing and feel are worthy of my time instead of having a job that isn’t helping me be the person I’m.
I’m in the process of creating a master plan (that will be my MA project, or at least I hope so), or maybe just a plan that would allow my family to be as self-sufficient as possible. In practice, it means that whatever happens, we will have enough food, electricity and heat and be able to get to places without relying on a car. I know people live such lifestyles in remote villages or smaller towns. But I would love to see if that lifestyle is possible in an urban environment. Not everyone wants to live in the remote countryside, and I’m a city girl who appreciates the countryside for a few weeks a year but not every day.
Investing time in alternative living solutions is a fantastic investment in a more sustainable future, omitting the greedy corporations’ grand plans for human debts in any and every possible way.
Living a minimalistic life in a small purposed built house that isn’t heaving with unwanted things, growing your own food, collecting water, being able to heat your home and using solar for electricity is a great investment strategy for the uncertain times that the arrival of the pandemic began, and the climate change will only intensify.