Week one: golden pants gate

“I don’t want to scrimp and save, I want pants made of gold” The Husband

Friday

Wake up with: £80

Go to bed with: £80

I start Friday with a breakfast meeting at a trendy Soho hotel. Luckily, I’m not picking up the tab, so I still have £80 in my pocket when I leave and I use the last of my Oyster card credit to get there and back. Breakfast was pretty filling, so I skip lunch in the spirit of my new budgeting challenge.

I spend the night in front of the TV with a bowl of Thursday’s leftover pork goulash. There’s nothing on and I feel immensely hard done by and grumpy, especially when the husband tells me that the vendor has pulled out on our house purchase. Another survey fee and mortgage application fee down the drain then.

Saturday

Wake up with: £80

Go to bed with: £21.50

Saturday is a challenge and a half. I can already feel the excuses mounting as I sip a coffee in bed and mentally plan my day.

There is nothing that could be classified as breakfast food in the house nor, for that matter, anything that could classified as lunch food. Oh and I’m due at a joint birthday do for two of my very best friends tonight. We’re going to a classy bar and I still need to buy one of them a present. It’s also pissing down and I used the last of my Oyster credit yesterday (for non-Londoners, Oyster is a pre-paid card used to pay for public transport).

After a battle with myself, I decide I won’t give up that easily. I am resolve, I am steel.

There’s nothing I detest more than skimping on events and celebrations so I decide that if I blow the entire budget today, well we’ll just have to starve for the rest of the week. I skip lunch and breakfast, eat leftovers for tea and keep the alcohol intake to a respectable three glasses. I have one of the best nights of my life and the husband and I get the night bus home at 2am happy, merry and only slighty soggy. And so to bed, with £21.50 in my pocket.

Sunday

Wake up with: £21.50

Go to bed with: £11.49

Sunday dawns and I feel surprisingly good—there’s an advantage to cutting back on the booze. Just as well as there’s plenty to do: if I’m going to make this work, I’ll need to be ruthlessly organised. A quick kitchen audit reveals it’s going to be tough. The fridge has not been magically filled with food overnight and there’s about an inch of milk left. I start to make a list…

We host a long running supper club on Mondays, so I need dinner for five for tomorrow and I’ve arranged to meet my mum for lunch on Thursday. Plus, I have four lunches and six dinners for two to conjure up — all for less than £21.50. Uh Oh.

With an enormous amount of restraint and a heavy reliance on the basics range, I spend £10.01 on supplies, then pass a satisfying afternoon, planning and cooking. By the day’s end I have four portions of lentil and spinach soup and six portions of coq au vin in the fridge and a slap up Sunday tea of poached eggs and ham waiting for my husband when he gets home. (Oh, and I’ve done two washes, emptied and filled the dishwasher, and done the ironing for the week – that’s right, I’d like a medal).

Monday

Wake up with: £11.49

Go to bed with: £11.49

I wake to bright sunshine and blue skies – perfect cycling weather. I cycle the 20 minutes to work, and settle in to my Monday routine safe in the knowledge that I won’t need to spend anything all day: my delicious homemade soup is in the fridge, tonight’s dinner is sorted… Oh wait – my delicious homemade soup is in the fridge AT HOME. Great, that’s a 40-minute round trip on the bike to fetch it then. I’m lucky it’s a relatively quiet day at work—last week, a 40-minute lunch break would have been impossible.

It’s payday for the husband and I try to pin him down on his cash flow before our guests arrive but to no avail. Hmmmm. Damn him for making me laugh with his crazy questions: “Can I still have pants made entirely of gold?” he quips, neatly avoiding the issue at hand.

The lads pile round for their coq au vin supper and don’t seem to notice any dip in quality and no one goes to bed hungry. Result.

Tuesday

Wake up with: £11.49

Go to bed with: £10.20

The day starts well. I remember to take tonight’s dinner out of the freezer AND take my soup to work. It’s raining (again) but I pull on my waterproofs and cycle to work like a hero (yep, a HERO!).

On the way home, I buy an avocado for tonight’s supper: enchiladas made with the homemade veggie chilli and a chicken breast I pulled out the freezer this morning, half a pack of tortillas from the store cupboard and the last of the cheddar. It’s surprisingly good. I have spent £1.29.

As usual, we discuss the pick of today’s Rightmove search, but I feel a little deflated at the prospect of yet more house hunting. We’ve lost out on three properties this year and I’m starting to think it’s never going to happen.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £10.20

Go to bed with: £10.20

My shampoo has run out and I have to raid my emergency supply of hotel freebies—there’s no way I can buy another bottle until next week. We’re also out of bin bags – we’ll be using plastic bags for the forseeable future methinks.

Dinner is courgette and paneer curry from the freezer with the leftover courgette chucked in for good measure.

Husband’s money-saving tip of the day: dancing in his pants for cash. I’m sensing a theme here.

Thursday

Mum is due at one. She pulls up outside my office and we drive around looking for parking—no easy task in East London. Eventually we find a pay and display spot on Brick Lane. We don’t have any change, so I nip into the newsagent and break into my £10 note. I feed £4 into the metre and we head off to Leon for lunch. Mum picks up the tab (phew), although I had planned to buy her lunch after she’s made the effort to come all the way to see me. No matter, I treat her to a pot of tea at our next port of call.

I wave goodbye to mum feeling teary; I’m not good at goodbyes and, now mum lives in France, we don’t see each other very often. I pull myself together and finish off the afternoon at work.

It’s election day and I head to the polling station. I’m more certain of who I won’t be voting for than who I will. After Boris referred to his £250,000 salary as ‘chicken feed‘, he certainly won’t be getting my vote.

I would love to see the 23 members of the cabinet who are millionaires and Boris Johnson—not to mention tax expert Ken—live off £80 a week. I don’t see how they claim to have any understanding of the challenges ordinary people face when their biggest concern is whether their duck house is painted in the right shade of Farrow & Ball.

Now I need to conjure up dinner from the 66p I have left in my purse. The fridge is bare. I decide to make a Bajan chicken curry (I have chicken breasts in the freezer; coconut milk and spices in the store cupboard). I pop to the grocers and pick up a plantain and onion, warning the cashier that I might not have enough to buy both. Bingo, the total is 51p and he even waves off my offer of the penny. I have survived the first week with 16p to spare.

The husband comes home and tells me that, not only has he cancelled Sky Sports, but he spent his lunchtime on a mission to find the cheapest mayonnaise. Good to have you on board Mr LoveRichCashPoor.

Although I’ve relied on the store cupboard and freezer for the majority of meals this week (and eaten more pulses than are strictly recommended for convivial marital relations), not to mention promptly diminishing my stores to almost nothing, I’m giving myself a pat on the back; having spent half my budget by 16.02 on day two, I’ve effectively lived off £20 this week.

That’s just as well as there are more challenges to come this month—bank holidays, our first wedding anniversary and my husband’s birthday are all approaching and I’m going to have cut back so I can splurge when it’s deserved.

Thanks for reading

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