Hey big spender! Time to cut down on those fish fingers

I do love spending surveys, mainly so I can snigger superiorly about how much other people spend on wedding favours and push chairs. Yet this morning’s news that a family of four needs to bring home almost £25,000 a year to break even, had me rifling through my receipts with unnatural rigour. Now normally these kind of surveys rely on eye-popping levels of spending in order to make their headline hitting claims. My favourites are the ones about the cost of raising a child which assume birthday party budgets so unfeasibly extravagant you’d expect to find Johnny Depp manning the chocolate fountain. But sadly this latest survey by Skipton Financial Services seems founded on reality with very little padding. Take a look at how they break down what it costs an average family of two parents and two children to get by:
  • Mortgage repayments which, on average, total £4,730 a year.
  • The weekly food shop total isn’t far behind – averaging £86 a week or £4,457 a year.
  • Paying off credit card bills and loans make up another £3,131 every year.
  • Filling up the car with petrol comes to £47 a week, or £2,452 a year. Other car costs include an average £944 spent on car insurance, taxing the vehicle and roadside assistance.
  • Commuting to and from work adds another £2,445 strain on a family’s finances.
  • Utility bills emerged as £1,282 each year.
  • Another £1,217 goes on council tax.
  • Sky or cable TV subscriptions come to £476, with even mobile phone bills averaging at £368.
Now let me know what’s missing. Do you see any reference to anything, other than the TV subs which could loosely be called fun? Nothing to cover going out, the cost of presents, parties (with or without Johnny Depp) clothes, holidays or even school trips. What is truly frightening about this survey is that food and mortgage costs seem to be running neck and neck. And even assuming your household is debt free, (saving £3000 or so on loans and credit cards) there is little room for the normal day to day purse-emptying expenses like school trips, comics and emergency doughnuts. Andrew Barker, managing director of Skipton Financial Services, said “It’s frightening how everything adds up. The cost of living is astronomical and now more than ever people have to be on the ball with their expenditure to keep on top of things; particularly at a time where inflation is riding well above target at 5 per cent. Inflation continues to hit families hard with the rising prices of food, petrol and energy bills. It is not surprising that mortgage interest is the number one spend, even though interest rates are at rock bottom levels. However, it is incredible to see that the cost of feeding the family is almost as expensive at almost £4,500 a year.” So just how astronomical are those day to day expenses? Here, as an illustration of where money really goes, after the basics such as household bills and bulk groceries are taken care of, is what I spent money on yesterday: 8am: School lunch money for eldest two and £17 for a school maths trip : £23 8.30am: Two bottles of water and a banana to tide the youngest over during after school archery (second bottle for second youngest “to be fair”): £1.55 11am: To the high street for school shorts: £6.95 Noon: Parcel with boots for youngest arrives: £7.99 inc p & p 1pm: Text from eldest requesting an emergency copy of the Guardian for geography. (Damn their pesky Eyewitness spread) : £1.20 3.15pm: Ambushed by school music teacher who recommends a violin chin rest for youngest daughter: “Only about £20 – mention my name for a discount” 5.15: Dash to corner shop for supplementary fish fingers, waffles, juice and ice cream as dinner sitting has increased by three – two of whom are demi-veg – and eldest daughter declares the unbranded burgers in the freezer unfit for public consumption: £12.10 6pm: Cheque required for second youngest’s  karate grading and insurance – a day late: £32.50 9pm: Second emergency dash to corner shop for wine and nachos to console distraught neighbour: £7.47 That adds up to £104.77. I call that both scarily normal and astronomical  – but is it just me? Let me know – and please keep up the Facebook chat to keep me out of that corner shop!