Money Diaries: Budgeting during a pandemic is weird, you spend more in one go and feel bad but in reality you're spending less on everything else.
This week we have Fiona, a 30-year-old currently on maternity leave with her 5-month old son, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic
My husband and I started saving at the beginning of 2019 for the arrival of our baby - we had a plan. With my due date nearing the end of the year, this would give us plenty of time to save enough money to see us through Statutory Maternity Pay until the baby was seven months old. The best laid plans of mice and men.
It's now 2020, my husband is on furlough for at least three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a mortgage to pay, and a large loan payment to worry about on top of bills and council tax - not the situation we had planned for.
Luckily, I managed to get a delivery slot this week - when trying to budget ordering your food online can be very cost effective. The ability to search for cheaper alternatives or special offers so easily is a game changer, and most importantly avoiding any compulsive purchasing was a major benefit in keeping costs down.
Ordering online kept our shop at a consistent £45 - £60 each week. However, in the last month our food costs have gone up as I've had to send my husband out to do the shopping - either the cheaper brands I'd opt for weren't available, or he's not quite the bargain hunter I'd hoped for.
This week, I ordered my mother's shopping with ours, she has surgery on Thursday so is self-isolating until then. I ordered enough to last us for 2 weeks, coming to £124.33. My mothers shopping came to £26.35, leaving roughly £98 for our own shop. We're looking to start weaning so that included 4-6 month baby food, and necessities like nappies.
I know it might sound like I'm making excuses for the high cost, and maybe I am, but I'm not going to abandon snacks just yet.
Tuesday used to be the day I would take my baby down to the children's centre to be weighed, but with the closures, I contemplate buying a baby scale instead - it's been over a month now since he was last weighed. My baby was born small, so I've made sure to keep up with regular weigh-ins. Now, he's almost six months old, and I don't have a dot on a graph to reassure me. I worry about whether him still fitting 0-3 months clothes should be a matter of concern. Do I really want to spend £20 on scales I might only use once, or wait it out until the children centres are open again?
With the big 6 month milestone nearing, I now need to worry about an array of baby purchases that I've been putting off - a high chair for one, so I decided not to get the scales.
You tell yourself before the babies born "It'll be fine, I'll go into Mothercare and pick one out when the time comes." You didn't plan for Mothercare to go bankrupt, or for all shops to be shut only a few months later, with limited stock and deliveries, yet here we are.
I spend my day going from website to website trying to decide how cheap is too cheap and how expensive is too expensive. I think £50-75 is a good price range for a good quality high chair without being ripped off - another reason not to waste £20 on a set of scales.
My mother-in-law comes to the rescue. She has a high chair for him, for when we would come visit, but as that's not likely to happen for a while I have my husband pick it up - one thing we don't have to budget for.
Today, I rummage through my baby shower gifts, hoping to find some weaning supplies. Not much luck there - a feeding set that I think would be better for a toddler. My mother had given me a bowl and some spoons, but we would need more.
I browse online for supplies, and before long I've bought two sets of bowls, one set that's sealable, the other with suctions, heat sensitive spoons, two baby weaning recipe books and some sensory play balls in my shopping cart. Checkout - £48.28.
Pets come with a cost - upkeep and vet bills, this time round it's fleas. I'm sure you can imagine the nightmare of trying to get a pair of skittish cats to the vets for an injection. I sure can, I have scars to prove it. Instead I opt for the potent flea product. I'd told my mother I'd needed flea products and to my surprise she had bought us a batch, I just needed to swing by the vets and pick it up.
It felt very strange entering the empty car park, going up to the back of the vets to knock on a door and wait for them to leave the package in a small tray. Driving back, I see the high street full of parked cars - I guess some things don't change.
My baby has recently mastered the art of rolling. Last week, he would roll onto his stomach, get stuck and complain about it. This week, he's reached the other side of the room in the five seconds our eyes are off him.
We decide it's time for a playpen, its a big investment but a necessary one. Our house is small and we can't get anything done because we're constantly having to put him back on his play mat. I spend the morning searching for something affordable with good reviews. I settle on one of those flexible plastic pens at £89.99.
With such a large expense, I resolve to put off buying anything else for the rest of the week. My husband transfers some money out of our savings to cover the cost so that it doesn't dent our bank balance too much.
I spend most of my day waiting to hear about my mother's surgery and browsing gift basket websites. I'm tempted to get her something for when she's back home but most shops have a two-week waiting list, I may have to get her a card from the garage instead.
I get a text from my mother, she needs cat food and kitty litter ASAP. She has seven cats so a few spare tins of tuna wasn't going to cut it. Her surgery went well and she's in recovery so popping to the shop was too great a risk, I tell her I'll get some.
I needed to pick up some cat litter myself, so I head to the pet store - it's practically empty. It's a nice surprise after our experiences of hour-long waiting times just to enter the supermarkets.
I managed to get two bags of litter and cat food for just under £30 with my membership discount. I hurried to my mother's to drop it off and have a quick social distancing catch up. I assure her I'll give her my bank details for the supplies (I can confirm I still have not done this) and that we're staying safe before heading home.
On reflection, I don’t know if I spent too much. A lot of my costs were on things I needed.
I could have made savings on the food shop, but I’m not saving for anything beyond having money squirrelled away for when we need it. We tend to save for big purchases we need instead of shelling out the cost at once.
In a different world, I probably would have picked up weaning supplies weeks ago in a high street shop or put off buying a play pen because I was around my parent’s house more.
There was also a lot of savings I've made throughout lockdown - fuel for our two cars for starters. I no longer spend vast amounts on snacks at work (I’m sure you may have noticed the curse of the cafeteria as a running theme through the money diaries series). We also had plans to go camping this weekend which is now obviously cancelled.
I probably spent more this week than I usually do, but as I saved on our camping trip and fuel, I don't feel quite so bad.
Even though we don't have a lot of money this month, I'm optimistic we'll have some money left over, which will inevitably be spent on baby bits.
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