Sunday 1 August 2021

Home Economics Edition

This, though, is free.

Happy August! It's a brand new month of penny-watching for me, keeper of the household accounts, with four blank pages of my paper Expense Tracker to fill in. We're now eight months in to my ten year project, which is to pay off the mortgage and lay a nest egg. The nest egg will hopefully hatch a golden goose to keep us safe and warm in our childless (weep, weep) old age.   

Naturally I ask myself why we didn't start this ten years ago. As a matter of fact, we began taking stabs at it in 2017, which is how we managed to save up a down payment. One interesting thing about money is that if you don't watch it, it completely disappears, but if you do watch it, some of it sticks around. 

I emphasise "some." Life in the UK is expensive, perhaps notoriously so. It is probably one of the best countries in the world for rich people. There are so many delightful things and pastimes here for the rich. If we were rich, we would buy an 18th century townhouse in Edinburgh's West End, go stalking after deer, and pop down to London for the opera. B.A. would frequent the great auction houses, and I would indulge my passion for clothing Made in Britain to a greater extent.  (She sighed.)

To return to reality, I read a lot of personal finance blogs of my fellow not-rich, and I love poring over their household expense accounts. It's fascinating, and the authors are usually pseudonymous, so they don't mind. However, I am no longer pseudonymous, so we will just look at our monthly food bills. 

The excitement! 

I have picked the food bills because they belong to one of the few areas of monthly expenses that we can actually control. The energy bills are somewhat unpredictable, as they are not based on our actual use as much as what the energy companies think they can get away with before we change providers. The phone/broadband bill is like that, too. We halved our phone bill by calling British Telecom and threatening to go elsewhere. 

Another reason to pick the food bills is because it is a major contrast to living expenses in the southern parts of Canada and the entire USA. That said, we do not usually go to the very cheapest supermarkets, which are Aldi, Lidl and Iceland, but to middle-of-the-road Tesco, and we take occasional forays into snazzy Waitrose and high-minded Real Foods.

The reason for this is not snobbery but opportunity: we simply live closer to Tesco. Also, the cut-rate supermarkets don't always have everything we need when we need it. And Waitrose has my favourite coffee, and sometimes even puts it on sale. 

Right. Now steel yourselves. January was a doozy. RCBT means Restaurants/Cafes/Bars/Takeaway.

Food-and-drink Expenditure in 2021

January 2021: Groceries--£455.47; RCBT--£112.65; Coffee subscription: £12.95

February 2021: Groceries--£299.70; RCBT--£45.15; Coffee sub.: £12.95

March 2021: Groceries--£308.75; RCBT--£25.30; Coffee sub.: £12.95

April 2021: Groceries--£361.71; RCBT--£69.03; Coffee sub. £12.95

May 2021: Groceries--£350.34; RCBT--£344.45; Coffee sub. £12.95

June 2021: Groceries--£389.75; RCBT--£67.60; Coffee sub.--CANCELLED

July 2021: Groceries--£321.52; RCBT--£150.80

Explanatory Notes

I didn't start writing down what we spent when and where until April, so I am not sure why we spent so much in January. That we weren't paying attention is my best guess. 

The dramatic dip in February and March is thanks to Lent. 

The jump in April is thanks to Easter feasting. 

The massive RCBT bill in May is thanks in part to a April/May holiday in North Berwick and in part to a May trip to Cambridgeshire to see friends. A takeaway fish supper for two in North Berwick costs £17.90, and a sit-in Thai supper for four in that particular English town costs £85.90. Both, incidentally, were exquisitely delicious. We had TWO fish suppers in North Berwick, as it happens, because--let's face it--the North Berwick Fry is itself a good reason to holiday in North Berwick. 

I cancelled my coffee subscription when I found the same coffee on sale at Waitrose and reluctantly admitted to myself that it has been some time since the harshest lockdown had been lifted. 

Speaking of lockdown, the RCBT bill also increased thanks to lockdown lifting. For the time being, we can go to pubs, bars, cafes, and restaurants almost as normal. Booking ahead is usually necessary and naturally we have to sign in with either a pen or our smartphones. To a certain extent, social life has returned indoors, and that means "paying the rent,"  as it were. 

(I'll never forget handing over thermos flasks at a pub to fill with beer and then drinking the beer with B.A. on a bench by the river. It was very cold, and I got very tipsy.)  

In July, B.A. and I celebrated Canada Day in a Canada-themed restaurant and that Saturday splurged in a cocktail bar. The next week, B.A. picked up the tab at the pub for himself and his mates, and we had breakfast rolls in a humble cafe. Mid-month, I met my pupils and their maths teacher for a pizza lunch, and B.A. met some friends from his former workplace for sodas. In between there were a snack attack at the "Mac Shack" (which sells macaroni-and-cheese), a Gregg's savoury pastry, and two scrumptious Sunday pastries. As you see, it doesn't take much to spend £150.80 on eating out in Scotland.  

Meanwhile, as B.A. will undoubted say as he reads this post, fresh food is expensive. Not so homemade apple cider and elderflower champagne, however, thank goodness!

UPDATE (August 3): They do say you should never compare, but I was excited to see the June food costs for the Fire Shrink, as he too lives in the UK: He's beating himself up for spending just north of £500.  


  1. I was talking recently to my sister about the price of the weekly shop. We were comparing bills and honestly even when you buy all the essentials only in Lidl or the like it is still so expensive. My weekly messages are not much less than yours and I live alone. Hers would be higher than yours and there are 2 of them like yourselves. I suspect that we must be more expensive which is ridiculous for a farming nation. I haven been thinking of bringing my granny trolley to Dealz for household cleaning products, they are 2/3 of the supermarket price. I think your equivalent is Poundland.

    Do you put aside a white goods kitty? My bad luck was to have the fridge, washing machine and dryer break down in the space of a few weeks. I never replaced the dryer and the electricity bill is more welcomed now. My sister said about every 8 years you got caught with 2 or 3 of the essential kitchen equipment so put aside a fiver a week to be ready. I really like your housekeeping posts Seraphic.


  2. Thank you! We do have an emergency fund, but once it gets to a certain number, we turn it into a mortgage overpayment and start again.