Add to this suddenly going from looking forward to my wedding, to having to postpone it and to later this year, losing quite a lot of money in the process. My fiancé James* works in private equity – it’s really not as lucrative as it sounds, but he earns decent money. We’ve both gone from quite enjoying the novelty of and not commuting, to starting to get properly worried about our jobs because of Coronavirus – talking about how long we could pay the mortgage for if we both got laid off. Definitely not the conversations we were hoping to have in the year we (hopefully) get married.
After two years as a freelance writer and editor, I started a staff job in December 2019, on a four-day-a-week contract. I feel pretty lucky with the timing – to be on a steady salary, safely working from home during lockdown when I could easily still be self-employed and losing lots of clients. Although up to now on my ‘fifth day’ each week I’d been doing other freelance work, and that has now totally dried up – so I’m essentially on 80% pay.
Current account: £278
Joint wedding savings account: £9,440 – We’ve been saving £160 each a month since October 2018, and also put in £2,000 each from existing savings
Personal ISA: £2,100 – I aim to put aside £200 a month, which doesn’t always happen
Monthly earnings: £2,398
Any other incoming payments: Freelance earnings averaging around £750 per month.
As my main job is four days a week, up to now I’d been supplementing this with other freelance work. I’d built up lots of contacts in the previous two years of freelancing so never had any gaps. In fact, I’d often work weekends, afraid to say no to any jobs that came my way. Now, this has completely dried up, and I haven’t had one commission since lockdown was announced. On Fridays, when my fiancé is working and I’m off, I’m painfully aware of the work I’ve lost because of Coronavirus and distract myself with a lot of cleaning, daily sanctioned walks and cooking vats of food.
My half of the mortgage: £650
My half of household bills: Council tax £72.50; mortgage insurance £67; gas & electricity £29; phone/internet £23 = £191.50
Personal bills: Mobile phone £45; gym membership £52; TFL £168 = £265
Other: Netflix, £8.99; Friends of the Earth Trust £5; Guardian News subscription £5; Unicef £3 = £21.99
Splurges: My biggest weakness is online shopping, especially now, as we’re being inundated with emails from brands offering discounts. In the first week of lockdown, feeling seriously worried about our upcoming wedding and wanting a distraction, I end up clicking on one of these emails and spending £103 on a dress at 25% off. At the time, I was delighted to get such a good deal, planning to wear it at a friend’s wedding in July. Now I’m feeling guilty – and doubting that even their wedding will go ahead.
It sounds so frivolous now, but I had also been getting monthly facials in the lead-up to the wedding – around £75 each. The salon has cancelled my latest appointment due to Coronavirus, so that’s £75 I can keep and just stick on a at home. But it does get me thinking about the £225 I’ve already spent on three facials this year (not to mention products), and how they’ve been for nothing now I’m no longer anywhere near my wedding day.
Weekly budget: £100 – This is what I always tell myself, and then hair appointments/dinners out/nail appointments/drinks with friends happen. Even in lockdown I’m definitely not managing this, spending £182.19 in the first week alone, swapping meals out for wine and takeaways, and beauty appointments for online shopping.
What I spent this month: £1,760 (inc mortgage/bills etc)
What I was left with: £638 (inc £360 savings)
Losses: Approx £1,877. Once James and I decide to postpone our wedding, we’re left with a massive to-do list and a whole new set of money worries. Luckily, the wedding organiser at our venue is amazing and finds us a new date in the autumn, and some of our suppliers are happy to move free of charge (most have lost bookings and seem glad of the future work). But our band isn’t free for the new date so we lose the €650 deposit we’d paid them.
The makeup artist can’t do the new date either, so that’s a loss of another €50 deposit, plus €200 I’d spent on a trial for me, my mum and sisters with her earlier in the year. There’s also €260 in lost deposits on several block B&B bookings we’d made for our guests. A few days later we discover that our wedding photographer isn’t actually free on our new date as we previously thought, meaning another €600 deposit gone.
Then a friend (who got married in Spain last year so is all over those exchange rates) texts to say the pound has plummeted to just €1.06 (it’s usually roughly between €1.12 and €1.15), due to the economic impact of the outbreak. This means our wedding savings fund of £9,440 has gone from being worth around €10,850 to €10,000.
Savings: We’re able to move our BA flights for free, and our new photographer gives us a surprise €300 ‘Corona’ discount. The generosity of that gesture has me in tears. It’s been a long month.
How I am planning to deal with losses/regroup finances for the wedding: We now have an extra six months to save, so I really need to control my spending so we can continue to put aside £160 each a month each to cover the shortfall.
MY MONEY THOUGHTS
What I want to save for: Retirement. I’m 35 and have a couple of (very small) pension pots from previous jobs, but absolutely no concrete savings plan for the future. Setting up a proper pension was something James and I had vowed to do after the wedding, so now that’s been pushed back another six months too.
My worst money habit: Splurging on online shopping, then feeling super guilty. During lockdown, I’ve managed to curb this, but I’m still spending more than I feel like I should be on wine and takeaways.
My biggest money worry: That me or my fiance will be furloughed or lose our jobs, and struggle to pay our mortgage.
Current money mood: ????♀️
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS….
Manage your mortgage
If there comes a time when you can’t keep up with payments, remember there are things you can do. Under the government’s emergency measures, you can apply for a payment holiday of up to three months. This isn’t the only option, so contact your lender to discuss. For example, they might be able to extend your mortgage term or defer your interest payments for a period.
‘Marie Kondo’ your inbox – Resist being tempted by that cheeky 25% off by giving your inbox a good spring clean. Manually unsubscribe or use Gmail’s handy ‘unsubscribe’ feature which does the hard work for you.
Want a real intervention? You could try website blockers. Ice-box is a free google extension which, rather than allowing you to purchase the item, let’s you put it ‘on ice’ and reconsider the purchase at a later date. For emotional spending, try the 72-hour rule; tell yourself you can have it, but you have to wait another 72 hours before splashing the cash.
Feel no guilt for your pre-lockdown facials! As we adjust to this new normal, now more than ever it’s important to maintain the rituals we love. The good news, you can still get the glow on a shoestring. Follow FaceGym on Instagram for free DIY facial ‘workouts’ and buy your own Jade roller or Gua Sha massage tool for less than £15 on Amazon.
It’s not sexy but meal planning is key to staying home and saving money. Once a week, shop your cupboards, pick 5 recipes you’re keen to try and plan a shop (keep the weekends for pizza takeouts!). Double up on ingredients so you’ve always got enough for lunch too.
Pay yourself first
Don’t leave it up to you to save money! Set up a standing order for shortly after payday which automatically transfers the amount you want to save into your ISA, every month.