In these troubled times where incomes are not guaranteed, most of us need to start considering how we’re going to eke out what we already have. It’s certainly a time to start thinking how we can cut back, especially if you’ve never had to before.
I’m no authority on this subject, but I do have many years of personal experience. Over thirty years ago, when my sons were teenagers and still at home, my husband, aged forty-three had a severe heart attack. At the time, I was studying for a degree as I was hoping to establish a career for myself after many years of child raising. The consultant told my husband he should not work again, and as he couldn’t walk more than a few steps without pain, I willingly gave up college to assist him.
Six whole weeks went by before we received any state benefits. That was a difficult time as you can imagine. I sincerely hope those dependent on the state due to this self isolation won’t have to wait so long.
That first week, I cancelled every home service I was allowed to. In those days we had our milk and newspapers delivered, so they were the first to go. Next I had to tell the window cleaner his services were no longer required. Then I examined my endowment insurance policy and saw I could cancel that. It paid us a small amount of cash back, but there would have been a much better pay out if we could have left it until it matured.
Everything we could let go of, we cancelled. Luckily, the car we had on monthly payments was covered by insurance, so we no longer had to find the money for that. Our mortgage was our biggest worry, so I wrote to our lender asking if something could be done. We were paying 14% interest on the mortgage at that time. Unfortunately, they weren’t very helpful and we were still liable for the full payment. To cut a long story short, we found ways of cutting back and managed to still pay everything we were required to.
This was more than thirty years ago and since I’ve been the primary carer for our children, my husband, and both sets of our parents, I don’t even have my own pension. Instead, the state take £77 from my husbands state pension and pay it in my name. So you see, I’ve always had to stick to a tight budget. Now, I feel the lessons I’ve learned and the tips others may give, may help others at this critical time.
I intend this blog to have a go-to list of helpful hints and suggestions to help the reader better manage the resources they have. If you have any posts about money saving tips, recipes, make do and mend ideas, or anything else which could be useful to those struggling, please drop the link in a comment and I’ll add it here. Every little bit helps when you’re on a tight budget. Thank you!
This isn’t the time to bury your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. Aim to limit the financial damage straight away. Start by examining all your entertainment, contracts and see if it’s worth cancelling them. Obviously, don’t cancel if the cancellation fee is more than you’ll save by not paying the remaining installments.
Look at your phone contracts. During this pandemic while you’re stuck at home, do your family members all need their individual mobile phones to keep in contact with each other? If you have a landline, that may suffice for keeping in touch with others. However, If your mobile phone is your ONLY link to the internet, then keep one contract, otherwise, opt for a pay-as-you-go voucher instead of contract if you can. Again, ensure the cancellation fee is not more than the remaining contract payments. If it’s still necessary for other family members to keep their own phones and you can afford it, get a minimum pay-as-you-go voucher for them and persuade them to limit their calls to make it last.
Check with your power supply providers that you’re on the lowest tariff for gas and electricity. Often, if you have separate power providers for gas and electric, you can get a better deal by having one supplier provide both gas and electric.
Hopefully, you will have enough food already in to keep you going for a short while but, if not, seek out any Food Banks or Community Food Initiatives in your area. Don’t be too proud to do this. They have been set up to help people in unforeseen situations like this. You won’t be the only one in your area looking for outside help. Continuing to get nourishment can help you remain healthy.
If you smoke, now is the perfect time to give it up. What would be the point of foregoing food on the table or missing important payments for a few packets of cigarettes? yes, it will be hard, but think how much better off you’ll be when things get back to normal.
The occasional drink is alright, but consider how much you usually drink. Are you usually a pub drinker? How much would you usually spend a week on drinking? Now is the perfect time to consider your spending habits. Resolve to not buy any more alcohol, at least, until your income improves.
Those trips to the hairdresser and beauty salon will have to be curtailed if you are going to survive living on state benefits for a time. Don’t worry, they can be resumed once your income is back to normal again. The treatments would be wasted anyway if no-one can see you while you’re stuck at home.
Put a temporary hold on newspaper deliveries, window cleaners, laundry, and gardening services. You have the time to do most jobs yourself now so why pay others money you can’t really spare to do it for you.
Don’t waste any food. If you’re used to having a fully stocked fridge and larder, you may think you have nothing in to make a meal, but we can all make our food go further. For example, most people cut off the thick broccoli stalk and throw it away, serving only the little broccoli florets. Don’t throw the stalk away; chop it up and freeze it for later. You can add it to stews and soups or even serve the chopped pieces with the florets to make it go further. If you think your veg isn’t going to get used before it goes off, chop it up and freeze it. Carrots, parsnips, swede, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and peppers can all be rescued.
Here’s one end-of-the-week recipe I used to do when my 3 sons were at home and the cupboard was almost bare. It can be eaten hot or cold, and can be frozen.
Cheese and Onion Quiche
8 oz Flour
4 oz Margerine
1 Large onion
half a pint of milk
3 to 4 oz cheddar cheese
- Using the fingertip method, rub the margarine into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Slowly add a few drops of water to the mixture while stirring, keep adding a few drops until it all holds together in one mass. Roll it out on a floured board.
- Switch oven on at 170 degrees Centigrade (adjust for fan oven). Grease a 9 to 10 inch flan dish (23cm to 25.5cm) and line the flan dish with the pastry.
- Dice the onion and fry gently in a knob of butter on a low heat until the onion is soft but NOT browned. Put the softened onions on top of the pastry in a level layer.
- Grate the cheese. Heat the milk, but don’t let it reach boiling point. Whisk the eggs a little and add to the hot milk. Add most of the cheese to the milk mixture leaving about a quarter of the cheese for scattering on the top of the dish. Season the mix with salt, pepper, and paprika (or cayenne pepper) if you have it. (Alternatively use Season All which is paprika, salt and pepper already mixed.) Pour the milk mixture on top of the onions in the flan.
- Scatter the remaining cheese on top of the quiche and sprinkle a little more paprika (or Season All) on top. Bake in the oven for 40 – 45 minutes. Enjoy!
If you prefer, for a firmer pasty base, bake the pastry in the flan blind for 5 – 10 minutes. That means weigh the pastry down with a smaller flan dish of something similar while baking for a few minutes before adding the milk mixture.
If you have cooked ham or bacon pieces you can also add this to the milk mix for an extra tasty dish. Alternatively, choose your own fillings.