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love hearts: love rich cash poor

Well hello there. It’s been too, too long and I’ve missed you all dreadfully. I’m not just saying that; I really mean it. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone had noticed that I’ve failed to post for nigh on two months. Even my mum hasn’t bought it up. But it turns out there’s at least one person in the world who has clocked my silence, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Where have I been, you might well ask? I’m ashamed to confess I have been consumed, obsessed no less, with a new love…

Before you jump to conclusions, no, it’s not another man – my husband is still the one and only guy for me! I have a new job. I’m now managing editor of many, many wedding magazines. I have a new commute (the trusty bike had to make way for an extortionate train ticket), new responsibilities, a new salary and a new passion for my work. I love my new job. Not all the time, not everything about it (it’s terrible being the boss and having to be ‘mean mommy’) but how could I not adore looking at pictures of weddings all day, every day? It’s blissful.

Still, while I have completely failed on the blog front, I have not lost sight of my mission. I have £4,000 in the bank, and four months to go. We’re still on target baby!

I’m hoping that it’s true when they say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Tell me, you lovely readers, am I forgiven?

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Olympic Park, Stratford, London 2012

Reader, I’ve been bad. Not only have I failed to write my housekeeping report for nigh on three weeks but I have also well and truly blown the budget. However, the two are in no way connected – while it’s not exactly fun admitting my foibles on a weekly basis, you know I’m not afraid to do so.

No, the real reason behind the radio silence is that I simply haven’t had the time. Not a spare minute. I’ve been up at the crack of dawn and fallen into bed at midnight. I have barely even had time to watch Bake Off (see, it’s serious!). I hope you’ll excuse the departure from the usual format for one more week, while I catch up…

In the spirit of openness (albeit belated disclosure) here’s a taster of just how spectacularly I failed on the budget front during this little hiatus:

  • I spent an enormous amount on a pair of smart trousers and two blouses in Whistles (before you gasp in horror, can I add the caveat that it was a sound investment as it was an outfit for an interview? No? Okay, my bad! I just didn’t think H&M leggings with a couple of holes in where the bike chain caught would cut it).
  • I bought lunch on seven separate occasions. Once I even bought my lunch in Pret a Manger despite having a perfectly good tub of leftover stir fry in the work fridge because I just didn’t fancy eating it. Tut tut.
  • There was various hen do, wedding, holiday and new baby related expenditure, all of which was wildly over budget, all of which I’m placing firmly in the ‘essential’ category and none of which I’m detailing here.
  • I spent £7.99 on a serving slate because I wanted one.
  • I couldn’t resist the lure of a new novel in WH Smith (the new Adriana Trigiani, since you ask). No idea what it’s about as I haven’t had time to read it yet—I think I just wanted to kid myself that any day now, I’d while away an afternoon on the sofa, cup of coffee by my side. While we’re in fantasy land, let’s throw in an non-existent fire and a dog for good measure.

So there you have it. I won’t apologise, because I wouldn’t change any of those things for the world. Well, maybe the lunches and the novel, which are ridiculous expenses given that I live five-minutes’ walk from a library and several secondhand bookshops and am perfectly capable of making my own lunch.

Still despite August being a complete washout on the savings front, I’m giving myself a little pat on the back as the old bank account is looking pretty healthy. In the last four months, I have cleared all of my debts and managed to scrape together just shy of £2000. That’s right, I’m pretty damn impressed with myself.

All the above has got me thinking about my ultimate goal. Notwithstanding my many ‘slips’ since I started this blog, I seem to be ahead of schedule. Originally, the plan was to save £8,500 over 17 months (leaving me £6,000 in credit). Now, thanks to the fact that I’m no longer paying off my student loan and credit card every month, which has freed up a little extra cash, I could do it in a nice even 12 months.

And while I’ve mostly been adhering to the first rule of saving money (spend less), I haven’t spent much time exploring the second (earn more). That is until now… watch this space.

 

 

Postscript: congratulations this week go to the Smiths on finally tying the knot and the Browns on their gorgeous new red head. X

Friday

Wake up with: £50

Go to bed with: £41

Another £50 week, to account for the purchase of wedding presents this month. I am very much looking forward to next week, not only because it will herald the return to the full budget, but also the return to normality on the home front: the DIY project is scheduled to finish on Monday. Phew.

The week starts on a real high, a drink and a gossip with a former colleague at The Book Club Basecamp, a pop-up outdoor bar, kitchen and playground that is screening the Olympics everyday until 12th August. It’s awesome, but unfortunately everyone else thinks so too. We finally manage to secure a bottle of rose, (£18) and a nook to drink it in (free) and so the gossip begins.

As the wine peters out, I check in with the husband who sounds unusually strained for a Friday night, so I decide that I’d better head home to ply him with some food and cuddles. Plus, I’m really looking forward to seeing our newly-installed bathroom floor…

When I get home, I discover exactly why the husband is tense. The tiler we have drafted in, the self-same tiler who promised it would take just a day to lay our new bathroom floor is still there. The toilet and sink are disconnected and there is precisely one tile on the floor. We try to cajoule the tiler into calling it a day: surely he wants to watch the opening ceremony? Apparently he doesn’t.

I walk into the garden, take a deep breath and resolve to put on my happy face. I am zen personified. The husband and I retire to the sitting room to watch the show, which is enough to banish all DIY stresses. It’s amazing, transporting us to another world where London is a dream city and the UK a utopia of all things lovely and wondrous. And I really want a pair of those glow-in-the-dark wings. Good job Danny Boyle.

The husband has bought us steak for tea and, when the tiler finally leaves at half ten (curiously, no noticeable progress has been made), we sit down to enjoy it on the balcony.

On this night, I am proud to be British, at least until Paul McCartney starts warbling, anyway! 

Saturday

Wake up with: £41

Go to bed with: £41

On the plus side, this DIY business sure is cheap. I’m so busy sanding, painting and cleaning today I haven’t got a second to spend any money—as long as you don’t count all the pennies I have to spend in the local pub; our loo is no closer to being connected at the day’s close, although we have at least got a few tiles on the floor now.

Looking on the bright side, at least I’m here today to remind the tiler not to smoke in the house, use my kitchen worktop as a tile-cutting bench, or to wipe up excess adhesive with my shower curtain. Honestly, I have spent more time over the last few weeks desperately fire-fighting after spectacular carelessness than I have actually doing DIY. It took an hour to pick the paint off my jute chair covers (they were in a room where NO DIY was taking place!), I have washed, dried, ironed and folded endless amounts of towels and teatowels that have somehow leapt from the serried ranks in the airing cupboard into a bucket of plaster. Not to mention the irreplaceable and precious fabric I was using as a window panel in the sitting room, which is now liberally daubed with white gloss paint and consequently ruined forevermore.

Humph!

Sunday

Wake up with: £41

Go to bed with: £32.90

I am no longer zen. At 3.45pm on day three of the bathroom floor debacle, there is no sign of the tiler, ergo sum, the bathroom floor is no closer to being completed. The tiler said he would be here between 11am and 12pm. So far, so four hours late. I am not impressed. He finally turns up at 3.52. Grrrr.

I try to distract myself with a trip to the greengrocers and a bit of kitchen therapy, but it’s an ask with all the bathroom appliances and several toolboxes underfoot. Still, we’ve got to eat something this week so I persevere. I make a couple of moussakas (one for now, one for the freezer), a dame blanche cheesecake and some quesadilla filling, as well as a pot of chicken stock. By the time I have shopped for and made that lot, the floor is no closer to completion.

I should point out at this juncture that our bathroom floor is approximately two foot by six foot; I could have taught myself to tile and plumb in the amenities by now. The clock ticks on, the floor is grouted but the ‘conveniences’ remain in the kitchen. Curious. Eventually, at ten pm, when I am ready to weep with frustration, the tiler decides he is going to come back tomorrow. It takes every single ounce of willpower I have to nod and smile, and not punch something (or someone). As soon as the door closes the floodgates open. I can’t take this anymore.

Of course I am grateful that he worked through the weekend to finish the job. Of course I appreciate that you can’t have good, fast and cheap. But: builders please note: if you think it will take three days, say so. But don’t tell me it will take one day and then drag it out to four.  And yes, that is a newly-painted wall you have just smeared with grout. Thanks. I’ll just repaint that before I go to bed then.

Monday

Wake up with: £32.90

Go to bed with: £28.86

I’m not the greatest fan of Monday mornings, but boy is it a relief to be at work today. There isn’t dust on every surface and I don’t have to leave the office to relieve myself. Bliss.

One big shout out has to go to the husband, who got up at 6.45am to clean the bath so I could wash for the first time in three days. The husband is amazing. FACT.

It’s lucky I’m feeling buoyed up because the carpet fitter calls in sick. Oh joy! On the plus side, the husband tells me the tiler is on his way at 11am. All he has to do is re-plumb in the loo and sink… When I get home from work at six-thirty, guess who’s still there? Yep, the tiler. Oh joy! And neither the loo nor the sink are plumbed in. How is this possible? What has he been doing for six and a half hours? Reader, I am baffled – and furious. This is beyond a joke now. Maybe I should stop feeding him? The tiler eventually leaves at nine-thirty pm (after I’ve cooked him dinner), so another night ruined, but at least we have a working bathroom now. Thank god.

Tuesday

Wake up with: £28.86

Go to bed with: £28.86

Hurrah! The carpet fitter has been and I am going to sleep in a proper bed tonight. The husband and I spend the evening re-assembling the bed, and gradually shuffling the furniture into the right position in the right room.

At just after midnight, I climb into an actual bed, in the actual bedroom and delight in the clean sheets. This is the definition of bliss.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £28,86

Go to bed with: £28.86

To say I have a humdinger of a day at work would be an understatement. Luckily, I have the perfect antidote up my sleeve: we’ve been invited to cuddle the brand new supper club baby this evening over dinner. The tiny one is utterly gorgeous, and I scoop him onto my lap, apparently just in time for his evening ablutions. I quickly try to hand him back to his dad but it’s too late; he’s christened my dress. I mean, really, really christened my dress. His mum and I are so busy crying with laughter that we can’t even wipe it up. Luckily, it doesn’t put me off my dinner (I’m not sure what it would take to put me off my dinner!)—delicious chicken satay—followed by my dame blanche cheesecake.

On the way home, I reflect on the day: there has to be something wrong when the high-point of your day is being poo-ed on! Luckily, I am escaping from everything tomorrow: I’m off to Venice for a meeting with a client. No more DIY, no more ‘challenging’ work situations: just me and Italy. I need this, reader, I need this.

 

Thursday

Wake up with: £28.86

Go to bed with: £28.86

My sister has gone into labour. MY SISTER HAS GONE INTO LABOUR! It’s a huge surprise when I get a text telling me that her waters broke yesterday as she isn’t due until the 27th. I rise at 5am to catch my flight to Venice, frantically checking my phone every 30 seconds for news. I know this giving birth business can take a wee while, but I can’t stop myself.

There is literally nothing in this world that can rival the feeling of arriving at Piazza San Marco from across the sparkling lagoon. Venice is just magical and I feel my spirits soar instantly; now, I remember why I love my job. Our client is waiting for us at The Cipriani dock, and immediately ushers us poolside for lunch and a bellini—that’s what I call a welcome. We retire to the bar to brainstorm contents for the next issue, followed by an aperitif on the terrace and a tour of the hotel. After a magnificent dinner, I’m ready to sink into my five-star bed. It’s ridiculously comfortable, like  sleeping on a cloud, but I toss and turn, constantly glancing at my phone in case my new niece or nephew has made an appearance… To Be Continued.

Had any DIY dramas of your own? Dreaming of escaping the daily grind? Get it off your chest, or simply divulge your dream destination in the comments box below… Thank you, as ever, for reading.

 

Minimum income calculator

Minimum annual wage for a couple with one child aged under 1, (adjusted to account for our actual mortgage and energy costs) according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard

Ever since I started this blog, I have been plagued by the thought that potential readers would be perfectly justified in dismissing my money-saving efforts as ridiculous. At the outset, I set myself a budget of £80 a week, after mortgage and household bills. To me, it sounded high; after all, unemployment benefit in the UK is currently set at £71 a week and that’s for everything. What’s more, I’ve been regularly relying on store-cupboard ingredients, falling back on store-card loyalty points, foreign currency or vouchers that I had in reserve. I’ve even gone over budget a couple of times. In short, I have felt like a bit of a fraud, albeit one that ’fesses up to her failings.

Today, however, the Centre for Research in Social Policy, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, published a report entitled A Minimum Income Standard for the UK. It’s a fascinating read. According to the report: “A minimum standard of living today includes, but is more than just food, clothes and shelter. It is about having what you need in order to have the opportunities and choices necessary to participate in society.” You can read the report and discover more about the Centre’s approach here.

Minimum income calculator

Weekly outgoings for a couple with no children, (adjusted to account for our actual mortgage and energy costs) according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard

What I found particularly heartening is that, using the website’s Minimum Income Calculator, I have discovered that my weekly budget falls well below the ‘minimum’: in fact, as a couple with no children, my husband and I would need £557.28 per week to conform to the standard of living defined in this report. To make a direct comparison (i.e. stripping out mortgage costs and household bills), my weekly budget should be £128.30. It appears I am £48.30 short of attaining this meagre standard each week. Now clearly, I actually have more money than this: I am choosing to save it rather than spend it and I am lucky to be in a position to choose at all.

However, it’s not as if we’re saving to buy a pair of designer shoes. We’re saving for the next stage of our lives and that has been bought into sharp perspective by a further turn on the Minimum Income Calculator.

Reader, I would like to have a baby. There I’ve said it. I’m not saying that I want to have a baby right this second, but I would like one in the next few years. I am 30, I am married and I own a tiny proportion of my own home. To the casual observer, there is no reason on this earth that I shouldn’t have one.

My employment contract entitles me to statutory maternity pay (SMP). Nothing more, nothing less. For those not familiar with SMP: for the first six weeks, you get 90% of your average gross weekly earnings. For the remaining 33 weeks, you get £135.45 per week.

Minimum income calculator

Weekly outgoings for a couple with one child aged under 1, (adjusted to account for our actual mortgage and energy costs) according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard

Back to the minimum income calculator. If my husband and I had a child aged 0-1, we would need £619.24 a week, assuming we continued to live in our five-room flat (kitchen-diner, sitting room, 2 bedrooms, bathroom), to achieve this basic standard. My share of that is £309.62. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that my maternity pay would leave me £174.17 short every week, or £5,747.61 over those 33 weeks.

And it doesn’t stop there; it’s not as if I can just go back to my job after nine months and leave the child at home. When/if I go back to work, I will then have to pay for childcare. As you all know, my disposable income is currently £820 per month (and it’s not looking likely that that will change for the better any time soon). According to the calculator, I would need disposable income of £696.17 per month, before childcare to maintain a minimum standard of living. That would leave me £123.83 to spend on child care per month. My official working hours are 9am to 5.30pm. Let’s assume that I never work late (I wish), I make that 40 hours per week. According to the daycare trust’s 2010 report, the average cost for 25-hours of care for children aged under 2 in London was £109. For my 40-hour week, not including travel time, that is £174.40. Errrrrr…..

In other words, with my ‘spare’ £123.83, I could afford just over 28 hours of childcare. Per month. At 2010’s prices. Let’s say the husband chips in: we can afford 56 hours of childcare per month. Woop di woop di woo.

This morning, as per my daily routine, I watched BBC news as I put on my make-up. Today’s discussion was the age at which women are ‘choosing’ to have children. It was the usual discussion: we’re having children later, blah di blah di blah. Women who wait to have children are risking infertility, miscarriages and complications. So far, so predictable—although this was the BBC, so it was less scare-mongering than usual. One aspect that was missing, however, from the segment I watched at least—I had to leave for work half-way through— was the issue of money. Has it not occurred to anyone that even if we’ve miraculously found someone to have children with during our child-bearing years (NOT a given, and something I am thankful for every single day), we can’t actually afford to have them?

If money grew on trees...

If money grew on trees…

Five observations about rich people…

Public transport Monaco-style, helicopter transfer

Public transport Monaco-style: helicopter transfer

1) If you are rich and can afford to do extremely exciting things, for example, take a helicopter from the airport to the hotel, you will lose all sense of wonder. The other passengers on this helicopter spent the flight on their blackberries. I whooped, squealed and took photos. I know, you can’t take me anywhere!

Money can't buy happiness but it can buy you a yacht

Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy you a yacht

2) In fact, rich people do not smile much at all. It appears money can buy you a yacht, but it can’t force you to enjoy owning one.

one ferrari, two ferrari, three ferrari, four...

one Ferrari, two Ferrari, three Ferrari, four…

3) If Monaco is anything to go by, rich people’s mantra is: ‘when the world hands you a tax break, buy a Ferrari’…

The powder room, Hermitage, Monaco

The powder room, Hermitage, Monaco

4) The richer you are, the larger your bathroom.

Sushilicious L'Asia plate at La Notre Bleue, Monaco

Sushilicious L’Asia plate at La Notre Bleue

5) Rich people eat the same as poor foodies, but they pay a lot more for it!

Belle of the ball: I know, how gorgeous is my goddaughter?

Friday

Wake up with: £40

Go to bed with: £33

With a £53m jackpot promised for tonight’s Euromillions lottery draw, £2 seems like a fair investment—besides after last week’s overspend, I could do with a swift cash injection—so I break into my brand new budget to enter the office syndicate. The husband sends me an email just before I leave work, the subject is ‘one day…’ I open it to find a link to Rightmove. I click through and it’s the most beautiful country house—and way out of our price range. Come on Euromillions. Come on.

I bought the husband tickets for Belt Up Theatre’s Macbeth at the House of Detention in Clerkenwell for our anniversary, so I pedal off to meet him at the venue after work. I buy him a little interval beer and he picks up the tab for dinner at Pho after curtain down. What a date night: it was an incredible production, dark and innovative and the curry went down a treat too. The only dampener is when I have to get back on my bike and cycle home, leaving the husband at the bus stop with my Oyster card.

At this point, I should point out that the reason I have been limiting myself to a budget of £40 for the last three weeks (cough, except for Amsterdam, cough) is so I can buy birthday/ christening/ anniversary presents without going over budget. I’m afraid you’ll just have to trust me on this one, making a public note of how much you spent on a present just seems wrong (besides, it would ruin the surprise).

Saturday

Wake up with: £33

Go to bed with: £13

The husband is working today, so I get up with him and manage to process the enormous pile of laundry and tidy the house before I’m due to meet a friend for brunch. It’s her birthday weekend, so the eggs are on me at café Z bar. After, we order take-out coffees and go for a walk around Clissold Park.

In the evening, there’s some big football thing on that is extremely important. I won’t attempt to explain what it is or why. I was hoping to escape to the two birthday parties I’ve been invited to but I’m feeling yucky and not at all sociable, so I (rather dramatically) take to my bed for the afternoon and emerge only to chow down a burger with the lads that have gathered for this momentous occasion. The husband has decided it’s barbecue season, sunshine or no sunshine—or should that be no sunshine or no sunshine (where is summer?)—and the barbecue goes down considerably better than the football, which is a disaster. Cue one very depressed husband. Poor boy.

Sunday

Wake up with: £13

Go to bed with: £13

It’s my gorgeous god-daughter’s christening and the proud parents, godparents and spouses all gather at The Holly Bush in Hampstead to coo over the beautiful baby and the magnificent roast that has been laid on to mark the occasion. We have a wonderful time writing lists of all the films, albums and books Isabel should discover when she grows up, the food she has to try and the places she simply must go.

It turns out to be a very late lunch, and we get home just in time for some eggs on toast and a couple of episodes of The Bridge before bed.

Monday

Wake up with: £13

Go to bed with: £8.72

Supper club tonight and I’m not sure who is in the house… we’ve been promised a guest appearance, two of the regulars are flying in from Canada and another has a backgammon tournament and may or may not grace us with his presence.

Mmmh—potentially I’ll be catering for six. My mental inventory of our current food-stock reveals we have sausages leftover from the barbecue (and an extra pack in the freezer from the husband’s bank holiday bonanza). My mind is made up: meatballs with a difference. I pop to the shops at lunchtime and score a pack of parma ham, some tinned tomatoes and a huge tub of cherry tomatoes for £4.28.

Tuesday

Wake up with: £8.72

Go to bed with: £8.72

Sunshine! Finally, I can turn off the central heating. This is an all-time record, normally I turn it off in March and on in October and, as I have explained to the husband on numerous occasions, this is non-negotiable—or in other words PUT ON A BLOODY JUMPER. This year, however, with temperatures plunging below 10C at night, we’ve been naughty and every time the doorbell rings my pulse races as I’m currently hiding from the meter man.

I treat myself to a G&T and a long gossip with my sister on the new-and-improved balcony when I get home (and use the last of the tonic, alas) then the husband and I have our very first outdoors tea of the year. Bliss.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £8.72

Go to bed with: £0.37

Good grief stamps are expensive! It’s my other lovely god-daughter’s first birthday tomorrow and, naturally I need to send a card. Card and stamps purchased and this week’s budget is pretty much exhausted.

Now I have to work out a way to buy the cleaning supplies I need (Thursday is cleaning day in the LoveRichCashPoor household) with £2.37. The pound shop it is. I love the pound shop—I find exactly the same brands that I would have bought at the supermarket anyway and snap them up for a pound a piece.

Thursday

Wake up with: £0.37

Go to bed with: £0.37

Out of necessity, this is a no-spend day, although I do take out the week’s remaining £40 to pay for the husband’s first birthday treat, which is lined up for this evening: a screening of Dog Day Afternoon in a pop-up cinema in Stoke Newington Town Hall. I treat him to a katsu curry and a beer to boot (lucky boy) and, with that, possibly one of the longest weeks in the entire world (budget-speaking) ends.

“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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