This is the acid test.
Consider these facts. For one month I have (unlike a usual month) bought no DVDs, books, magazines or newspapers. I have not once eaten out, or been out for drinks. I have cut down on buying drinks (tea/water) when out and about. I have cut my rent by £175/month. For half of the month all of my food was paid for by the company. For the two weeks when I paid for my own food, I made my meals from scratch, rather than buying ready meals; I took packed lunches to college. I have not been to the theatre or cinema, etc, at all. Not once have I bought cosmetics, accessories, etc.
So, what do you reckon, have I managed to live within my means, and not get overdrawn?
Made up your mind?
Well, the answer is: No, not this time, I’m afraid.
And here’s how it happened. . .
The Wicked One-Offs
There were a couple of “unfortunate incidents” this month. For one, my super-efficient, low-emission, congestion-charge-free car. . .
. . .scored a spectacular own-goal by racking up a £60 congestion charge fine, which was exacerbated by a £30 “admin fee” to my company car organisers. Yes, you read that correctly; “congestion-charge-free” and “[£90] congestion charge fine”. That’s because, somewhere in the need-a-magnifying-glass-to-see-it small print, TFL informs those who can hunt down the terms and conditions, that even congestion-charge-free cars have to pay £10 annually for a congestion charge exemption. Otherwise you still get the fine. Ouch.
The second annoyance involves my downsizing to a smaller room. In order to do this, I’ve enlisted my wonderful Superman of a friend, Dan, to come and help me move. I’d never be able to move beds, bookcases and chests of drawers without him. Nevertheless, there are a few unavoidable, one-off costs of moving.
The Awful Annuals
Unfortunately, this was also a harsh month for annual payments. My resident’s parking permit was £65, and the television license we finally got around to paying was £48.50 each.
Less awful is the £12 I shelled out for the NUS card, which often gives me a discount of 10% in shops, and which easily pays for itself.
£10 annual congestion charge fee exemption. See above. Grump, grump.
Isn’t it horrible when the gas bill lands on the doormat? Especially over the winter months. Fortunately, having just survived the British summer, the gas and electricity bill wasn’t too scary. Nevertheless, it’s another £44.83 to add to the pile.
The other quarterly I paid for this month was a haircut, which I bought a voucher for, at £29.00, and which I hope to use in late October.
The Miserable Monthlies
It’s this category where the costs stack up at an eye-watering rate.
Rent, at the new, lower level is still nearly £500.
My travel-card came to £135.50, because in addition to the three weekly passes I had to buy to get to college, I also had some weekend travel, which meant topping up my Oyster card with a large bank note.
Next on the list are council tax (£58 per month) and my gym membership (£51).
I pay £33 for my mobile phone, and £10 for the landline and internet. I have a monthly prescription, which is £7.65 a pop.
Petrol, net of reimbursements from work, came to £80 this month. I’m paid a pittance for my petrol expenses. This is for several reasons; firstly, due to the efficiency of my car. Secondly, reimbursements simply aren’t keeping up with increasing fuel prices. Lastly, as I lease rather than own my car, I am remunerated for petrol only, and not depreciation or anticipated repairs and maintenance.
Add to these fixed costs a variable amount for food, depending on whether I’m away with work, and for how long.
Until our new housemate moves in, I’ve covered her portion of the television license (£40). Of course, this only impacts on my budget in terms of the month’s cash-flow; overall I’ll be no worse off.
A couple of things I’ve already mentioned in the blog: a couple of bargain Christmas presents and the costs of renovating an old desk, as well as buying a water bottle, to save money on bottled mineral water.
So, Shopaholic still has a LOT of Cutting Back to do to really earn her stripes . . .
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