Living With.... A Tight Budget - The M Word

Living With…. A Tight Budget

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I have a good job, a really job in fact and would probably be considered to have a decent enough salary.  I’m not on the poverty line and I’m thankful every day for that. But there seems to be a misconception floating around that middle income earners are well off, that we are booking holidays galore while sipping champagne in the comfort of our huge shiny homes. Or indeed driving around in our luxurious cars meeting friends for cappuccinos or attending charity coffee mornings.

You and I both know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s start with payday. We get paid on the second last working day of each month and you can bet your bottom dollar I know when that falls EVERY month for the next year.  I’ve painstakingly worked out how many months have five weeks, how many have 4.5 and those blissful months of just four weeks between paydays.

I’m not sure about you but the first thing I do when I open my eyes that morning is check my bank account, because let’s be honest the banks haven’t exactly been the most reliable over the years. Don’t even get me thinking of the cardiac arrest that would ensue if for some reason the pay Gods had been on strike.

Phew it’s there. And for a moment I feel relieved. I have money, woohooo. Maybe this month I’ll buy that bra I need or indeed replace my holey knickers. Actually I might take the kids out to dinner at the weekend.

That feeling of euphoria lasts all but a few minutes as I look at my payment logs and see the painfully long list of direct debits and standing orders waiting to hightail it with my hard earned cash. A quick calculation in my head puts paid to that new bra and dinner out is suddenly downgraded to a takeaway, if even.

I know many of you will identify with the struggle of too much month, not enough money.  For me it seems to be that constant worry niggling away at the back of my mind.  I pay my bills and try to juggle what is left over for the weekly expenses – grocery shopping for an adult and two kids all but breaks the bank (why do they have to eat so much?!) and topping the car up with diesel every few days throws me even further towards a negative balance.

Being paid monthly adds a whole new challenge of actually having some money left over for food by the final fortnight.  I don’t drink or smoke, I don’t gamble and I don’t take drugs.  A decent car is a necessity that sucks me dry with finance and some personal loans just about finish off the rest.

It’s a vicious circle, can’t afford something? Get a loan! Repayments soon add up and before long even a small bit of finance just isn’t feasible.

I’m so fed up of watching every penny, of not having that coffee because at the end of the month I’ll be sorry I didn’t save that fiver.  Of taking my lunch with me to work every day and turning down a team lunch out or evening get-together.

Even then, an unexpected doctor’s fee or dentist visit could almost have me tearing my hair out with stress.  I suppose at least if I had no hair I wouldn’t need a hairdresser (which, by the way, is once a year).

There are lots of budgeting tips out there to help us along but putting them into practice can be the hard part.  From my research and chatting to many friends who also face the same dread, some of the most important things to bear in mind have been:

  • If you are paid monthly, organise your direct debits to come out at the start of each month, that way you know exactly where you stand.
  • Aside from your direct debits, make a weekly household budget and allocate whatever is left over according to that budget – groceries, diesel, kids clubs … anything that recurs on a weekly basis.
  • Make a meal plan every week and shop only according to that plan. Try and make one trip to the supermarket each week and only top up on perishables like milk if you have to.  Make sure to look around for special offers in the discount supermarkets in particular.
  • Set aside some savings every week – personally I like to have a few different savings boxes (you know the ones you need to use a tin opener on) for Christmas, birthdays, holiday etc.
  • If there is anything left over from your weekly budget, throw that into a savings tin for those unexpected bills.
  • Shop around for the likes of insurance, broadband, TV, electricity, gas etc. is a good place to start.
  • If there’s something you really want but don’t need, think about it for a few days. A bargain isn’t a bargain if you didn’t need the item in the first place.
  • Sell old clothes/shoes/furniture. Your junk could be somebody else’s treasure.  Keep an eye on the selling sites for second hand bits and bobs that you need, most likely these preloved treasures are in perfect condition.
  • I personally find that using the visa debit card can be a minefield so I still take some cash out and divide that up for the weekly expenses. I don’t really think of the cash I’m spending when I tap that damn card and in some shops, it doesn’t come out immediately so I find myself a lot worse off than I thought when they do eventually get deducted from my balance.

I know these are kind of obvious, but personally I convince myself that I’m doing my best but when I delve into the deep recesses of my budget I find there are definitely areas I could save a few quid.

Roll on payday … only 3 weeks to go.

Some day I’ll be able to buy myself that bra!


Shirley Murray
Shirley Murray
Shirley is a 44 year old single mum from Co Meath who loves to use beautiful words to express her own life experiences and create new worlds of interesting characters.