My Money: ‘My mum’s advice saved me from lockdown anxiety’

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Lexy Oliver

My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Lexy Oliver from Cheshire takes us through a week in her life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lexy is 27 and lives in Cuddington, Cheshire, with her husband Jonny, also 27, and their cat Bobby. She is the fifth generation to work in her family business, a delicatessen owned by her father. Jonny works as a data scientist for a holiday lettings agency. Lexy says there are no better staff discounts than good food and holidays!

The Covid-19 situation has certainly had an impact on their finances over the last few months. Lexy was furloughed for 10 weeks, and Jonny has just returned to work having been on furlough since April. During lockdown, when neither of them were in work, they were down over £1,000 a month in take-home pay.

Lexy says from the age of 16 when she first started work, her mum always told her to put money away for a rainy day, and thankfully they had done just that. Making sure they have a six-month buffer is a rule they live by, and saved them a lot of anxiety during lockdown.

Lexy and Jonny are now both back at work. Jonny is working from home, saving about £100 a month compared to when he was commuting to the office. Lexy works very closely with her father who has asthma, and he lives with her mum who has a blood condition called ITP, so she is doing her best to avoid going anywhere with lots of people.

Over to Lexy…

It’s an early start on Mondays as I have to be in work at the deli for 07:30. I eat breakfast and lunch at work – quality food is a perk of the job! I start my day with a freshly ground coffee and some fruit before settling in to my usual Monday morning admin. We’re on temporary hours at the moment due to the pandemic, closing at either 14:00 or 15:00 depending on the day, so the shifts really fly. After work I pop to the local card shop and pick up two cards, one for an upcoming birthday, and one for a friend who just got married (£2.09).

Before I know it, I’m home again, where Jonny and I have our afternoon tea break and a quick daily catch-up, which has become a lovely tradition for us since the lockdown.

Dinner is homemade fish and chips before the rain clouds disappear and the sun comes out. We throw on our trainers and head off for a little wander round the village. This turns into a one-hour explore down a previously undiscovered footpath. We thought we had found them all during lockdown but we keep finding more!

Total spend: £2.09

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Lexy Oliver

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It’s an early start again today with a similar routine to yesterday. I eat some eggs and fruit washed down with a cappuccino when I get to work. I’m having a bit of a sort out this week and doing all the odd jobs I’ve been putting off. I also ring one of our main ambient food suppliers and place our Christmas order. I know it seems early but in food retail the deadlines are early! It makes me feel warm and fuzzy knowing that all the delicious chocolates, stollen and festive treats will be on their way to us in a few months.

After work Jonny and I catch up on our days again over a nice cuppa before heading out for a quick walk between the rain showers.

In the evening we head over to my parents’ house for dinner. They only live a few miles down the road and it’s great to catch up with them, particularly my mum and younger sister who I don’t see every day like my dad.

I can do a little happy dance today as I haven’t spent anything!

Total spend: £0

I pick up a few food bits in work today including some cheese for tonight’s fajitas, and some sausages and eggs, which comes to £6.95 with my discount. After work I head to the supermarket round the corner and pick up the missing bits for dinner, some snacks for Jonny, and some strawberries and bananas for homemade smoothies (£11.15). I normally do a big supermarket shop out of town every two weeks or so, and then top it up with fresh bits from the deli and local shops throughout the week.

In the evening we enjoy our homemade fajitas before playing online video games with our old housemates from university.

Total spend: £18.10

Similar to the rest of the week, I get up early for work and come home just after four. After he’s finished work, Jonny and I have our cup of tea in the garden and do a bit of clearing up and weeding round our patio.

For dinner we have pasta bake, which is one of my favourite meals for using up all the odd ends of veg in the fridge before our next supermarket shop. In the evening we head out for a two-hour walk in the countryside during sunset.

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Lexy Oliver

Today is also the big bills day!

I’m constantly haggling and looking for better deals on all our bills so I’m happy with how low we have got some of our monthly payments:

  • £556.36 for the mortgage on our three-bed semi
  • £38.84 for water
  • £123 for council tax
  • £33 for gas and electricity, although we’ve just had a letter saying this will be going up to £38 a month. We have solar panels which take care of the bulk of our electricity usage, but being in the house more has pushed our gas usage up slightly over the last few months.
  • £11.70 for life insurance
  • £29.70 for internet (£20), and both our phone bills (£6.70 for mine and £3 for Jonny’s)

After all the essentials are paid, we have £500 automatically move into our investment account, which is effectively my pension, and I have a direct debit to move £100 a month into my premium bonds, which I use as a savings account for my next car.

Normally the payment for my audiobook subscription comes out today. I enjoy listening to them on my commute to work but since I was off work and hence didn’t drive for three months, I’ve racked up a stash of credits. Therefore I’ve paused my subscription while I catch up, which saves me £7.99 a month.

Total spend: £1,392.60

Fridays are by far the busiest days of the week at work for me, and coupled with the warmer weather it’s as busy as we imagined it would be!

After work it’s time for the fortnightly supermarket trip. I’m big on meal planning so we always go with a list and I’ve found it’s massively reduced our food waste and our food bill over the last year or so. I stock up on everything we need, plus some other essentials like cat food for Bobby. We also get a couple of luxuries including smoked salmon and bagels for a fancy Sunday brunch. The total comes to £57.30.

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Lexy Oliver

As all our main bills for the month have now been paid, we generally take some time around now to look at our spending over the last month and decide if we have any spare that we can put towards an overpayment on the mortgage. We’ve held off making overpayments while we were on furlough, but with us both back in work now we agree to make a £650 overpayment. We are quite committed to making mortgage overpayments where we can as the interest rate on our mortgage is higher than any savings rate the banks are offering at the moment, plus we kind of see it as saving for the deposit on our next home.

This evening we have three of our friends round for some socially distanced beers in the garden. Two of them live with their parents who have been shielding because of underlying health conditions. Tonight is one of the first times they have been outside their own home since March, so it’s so great to catch up with them.

Total spend: £707.30

This weekend it’s my turn to work on Saturday. Six-day working weeks are a bit gruelling but a lot of my summer and weekend plans have been disrupted by Covid-19, so I’m happy to make hay while the sun shines. I spend £10.80 at work on some nice bits for tonight’s dinner, as well as some other food for the weekend.

After work, Jonny and I head to our local garden centre. We did loads of work on the garden during lockdown – remodelling flower beds and borders, and planting new lawn. The hard work is mostly done and now it’s time to do the “nice bit” and add the colour. We’re also looking for some nice pots for our patio. I’m extremely happy to find the pots I had seen on the internet are now half price! We buy loads of lovely plants and flowers to fill our flower bed, as well as some other bits and bobs and the total comes to £186.91. However, we sign up for their membership club which saves us £5, and we use £80 of vouchers we had been given as birthday presents earlier in the year, so we only pay £101.96 cash.

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Lexy Oliver

To celebrate it finally being the weekend we treat ourselves to a deli cheese and nibbles board and a bottle of nice red wine for dinner, before snuggling on the sofa with Bobby and a film.

Total spend: £112.76

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Lexy Oliver

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Lexy Oliver

Sunday is spent almost entirely in the garden. We definitely have our parents to thank for our green thumbs! My mum is a florist, and both our sets of parents have immaculately kept, beautiful gardens.

We set to work filling the flower beds and new pots with yesterday’s garden centre haul. We literally spend seven hours gardening with a brief interlude for lunch. I am completely shattered by the end of the day but the garden is finally done, and now we can sit back and enjoy it for the rest of summer!

Today is another day where we didn’t spend a thing.

Total spend: £0

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Lexy Oliver.

Total spent this week: £2,232.85

How does Lexy feel about her week?

This week’s spending seems very high but it’s relatively normal for this week of the month as it’s when all our bills come out, plus we made a mortgage overpayment.

£600 was also moved to other accounts rather than “spent”. Most of our non-bill spending was food and plant pots. We’ll likely spend only a couple of hundred pounds over the rest of the month!

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Lexy Oliver