Tightening Budgets and Rediscovering Potatoes

Friday 24 April 2020 20:45

Well, I thought I’d pared my normal budget down to the bare necessities already as I headed into this year of challenges; of course, little did I know how much bigger those challenges would become! With seven months of working at the boatyard now not happening, taking the expected income with it, the real prospect of going hungry has been looming even larger and closer.

An urgent bit of crisis-within-a-crisis budgeting was called for. And it turns out there are quite a few more things that aren’t actually essential.

My small daily glass of wine with supper, and healthy quick to cook ready meals have been just a distant memory since the beginning of January. Now they’re joined by biscuits, cake, chocolate, crunchy bars, ice cream – in fact any edible treat at all! Ah well, maybe it’s time to diet.

Memberships of the very few groups and societies who I’ve supported for their good work – like the Basingstoke Canal Society – or to give me frequent entry to places I could otherwise either not see, or only afford to visit once or twice a year – like the RHS garden at Wisley have had to go.

Hardest to accept I have to let go are my regular monthly donations to half a dozen charities, but those are now all cancelled from May too.

Websites that have been dormant for a while are being mothballed when their hosting and/or domain name renewals become due. Obviously I want to keep this and D4H going, and ideally find a way of developing them even during the crisis…

My car is once again a dilemma. I decided in January not to get rid of it, especially as I was anticipating returning to the boatyard. Now I don’t expect it to be safe to return out into the world for the rest of the year. Quite what to do though, I’m not sure, but at this moment the car IS utterly non-essential. Update 28 April: I have decided to keep the insurance going just in case it gets stolen – although I don’t think it’ll start after nearly 2 months – or around here sadly likely, vandalised. I have however today SORN’d it, which means I get a refund of 10 months tax (although I’d like to hope I’ll be back driving before another 10 months is up, but for now the cash will be welcome).

The only other possible cut back – or even complete cut out – is my small storage unit. I believe storage providers are on the “essential services” list of places that are allowed by the government to stay open. As I’m not venturing out of the house even for a walk though, going somewhere like that – where unknowable numbers of other people are milling around (and the small units have doorways within only inches, or at most two or three feet of each other) – is utterly out of the question. I have to accept then that even if I was inclined to clear it out, it isn’t going to happen. With all the council tips closed, what would I do with it all anyway!

So my budget is down pretty much as low as it can go at the moment, and still comes in at a hefty £750-£800 a month. (Little Jessie, with her vet bills, litter and food, costs an average of about £100 a month, but she is, of course, a non-negotiable absolutely essential necessity!)

Food is where I’m learning to be more adaptable. Pasta, spaghetti, noodles etc are all in short supply for delivery, but I’ve reacquainted myself with good old potatoes and finding them extremely useful especially for lunches. A quick steam of a few finely chopped spuds, a dob of butter, maybe a little grated cheese or a third of a tin of tuna, mashed to a yummy perfection and dressed with ketchup – food for the Gods indeed.

A week or so ago I bit the bullet and applied for Universal Credit – something I really hoped to avoid doing – and it does look as if that will be forthcoming. It gives me just over £400 a month, far short of what I need, but every little helps.

Being accepted for Universal Credit should also make me eligible for Council Tax relief – in a nutshell, a saving of just under £125 a month. This is proving nowhere near as straight forward to apply for from the local council, with endless somewhat absurd hoops to jump through and impossible datelines, but I’m hopeful it will happen.

All in all it does look as if the government help coupled with tightening the belt another notch or two will mean my remaining rapidly dwindling savings will stretch a few months further than I’d feared, and should at least see me through to early next year. By which time I hope to be able to go out!

In the meantime, I need to get through all the stress and anxiety I’ve been feeling, and get back to working on my aim of NOT being ‘bowled out’ at the young age of 61. The coming months will be a far bigger test than I could ever have imagined, but I’d like to have Drawing 4 Health ready to launch properly in some form or other for the summer of 2021, and I need to get back on track, and get writing and drawing again.

Let’s face it, it’s not like I have anywhere to go!