Monday 1 November 2021

Home Economics: October Report

Happy November! I delight to inform you that we have bought, wrapped, and boxed 8 of 10 Christmas presents for overseas. (I will probably commission Amazon to handle the last two.) In an hour we will carry them to the post office for posting. Today is the Royal Mail's recommended deadline for sending parcels to North America via "economy," whatever that means. No doubt we will discover this at the P.O.

This unprecedented Christmas preparedness is thanks to my Budget Planner and the insight that one can enjoy shopping on holiday without guilt if it is, in fact, early Christmas shopping.  


Meanwhile, after what I thought was a ruinous trip to Waitrose yesterday afternoon, I was delighted to discover that we had not blown the food budget as much as I suspected. 

October 2021: Groceries--£327.00; RBCT (Restaurants, Bars, Cafes, Takeaway)--£100. Total £427

I had optimistically budgeted £300 for groceries and £70 for eating out, probably because I anticipated a whopping Wellness bill of £350. Happily, the Wellness bill came only to £312.28, largely because my arm is sufficiently better for me to have given up private physiotherapy mid-month. My dental bill was, however, a little more punishing than I expected.  (More on Wellness anon.)

To compare October's food bills to previous months: 

September 2021: Groceries--£296; RBCT--£156.89. Total £452.89

August 2021: Groceries--£288.35; RCBT--£153.22. Total £441.47

Looking back at previous months, we haven't spent so little on food since Lent, so budgeting £370 for Golden October was not entirely rooted in reality. Nevertheless, I am very pleased and glad that at a certain point I counselled Benedict Ambrose, who does most of the shopping and cooking, to frequent Aldi instead of Tesco. 


Living in the UK, B.A. and I don't have health insurance because the National Health Service, for which we pay through our taxes, is supposed to be our health insurance. And indeed the NHS supplied the GP, optician, surgeons and oncologist who saved B.A.'s life (some of them more than once), so we are grateful for it. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic made access to NHS-supplied medical care very difficult. It also made it more difficult for dentists, for example, to offer NHS services. Thus, we learned what it is like to "go private" in the UK for dental emergencies and work-related injuries, and the first thought comes to mind is gratitude that we had the money for it. Yay, parsimony!  Yay, Budget Planner! 


A reader mentioned looking forward to my savings tips, and so I thought about what they might be. The number one reason for my newfound fiscal responsibility is B.A.'s near fatal illness in 2017. That, as they say, was a wake-up call. However, I wouldn't recommend brain tumours to anyone, so here are a few things I find helpful. 

1. Libraries are free shopping. I am not sure why shopping is such an entertaining pastime, but it is, and you get to "buy" all the books you want from the library for free. 

2. Do present shopping on holidays. Last-minute Amazon shopping is a pain whereas shopping in exotic (or at least romantic) locales is fun. 

3. Don't base your identity on a supermarket. To this day, the UK has a weird obsession with social caste, and supermarkets get mixed up in this. An otherwise brilliant scholar once informed me that "only students and foreigners" shop in Aldi. Madness. 

4. Always ask for the receipt and write down everything you or your spouse spends. Always, and because this can be onerous:

5. Invest in a Budget Planner and turn it into a scrapbooking project. I love my little Budget Planner and the one time I thought I had left it somewhere, I burst into tears. I actually decorate it with stickers, and I colour in the "Difference" box that follows the "Total Income" and  "Total Expenses" box. 

6. Have short-term, medium-term, and ultimate goals.  I probably should have put this first. A short-term goal might be to write down all expenses for a single month. A medium-term goal might be to save up an Emergency Fund (enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses). An ultimate goal might be to pay off the mortgage, although having read Fr Crean's and Dr Fimister's Integralism book, I suggest that most of us have a duty to become financially independent of both employers and the state, if we can. Turns out that the girls who became hairdressers and started their own salons were better Catholics (from an Integralist point of view) than all of us who went to university and then into an office.  

7.  Distinguish between the Real You and the Fantasy You when about to buy a camel-coloured long wool coat on sale.  So there was this camel-coloured wool coat on sale at my very favourite Edinburgh shop full of high-end Made-in-Scotland clothing. It is on sale. In my size. And as I looked at it online yesterday morning, my hand hovered over the computer keys. 

I have long wanted a camel-coloured long wool coat because they are photographed so beautifully in the fashion magazines which, year after year, call it a wardrobe classic and a must-have for your capsule wardrobe. You can dress it down with jeans and boots. You can dress it up with a silk dress and stilettos.  I have often imagined myself in such a camel-coloured long wool coat, and there it was in my size, at my favourite store, and at half its usual price. 

But then I suddenly remembered having coffee and a baklava with a pal the day before. While chowing down in my usual inelegant way, I apologised to the pal as I brushed phyllo crumbs from my jacket. It is a dark jacket, flecked with green, which means it doesn't show stains from the foodstuffs or beverages I inevitably spill on myself. Alas, no camel-coloured coat could be a month in my company without being stained with something--probably cappuccino. 

Readers, I didn't buy it. Instead I looked at the dark red puffy coat I got for £35 at a charity shop on October 17 and was content. 

8. Be reasonable. If the radiator isn't working, you have to get it fixed. If you decide to except a London party invitation, you have to put aside a goodly sum for transportation, accommodation, and--as this is London--apparently just breathing in and out. And this accepted, when you do spend the money spend it joyfully and with gratitude that you had it in the first place

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