Pensioned off

Today is the first day of the most difficult task I’ve probably had to cope with since leaving the comfort of my parents’ home to live on a diet of fried eggs and cold baked beans at university.

It’s true that I’ve been living the frugal life for nearly four months, but now the real crunch has come. The grand old basic state pension is celebrating its 80thbirthday, so to celebrate MSN Money has set me the challenge of living on it for the next month…So any donations welcome! (Just kidding!)

Setting the ground rules, we are assuming the lovely mortgage DJ & I share has been paid off, so that we have no rent or mortgage payments to shell out. Otherwise we wouldn’t actually be able to do this experiment at all because, scarily, our mortgage is more than a month’s basic state pension.

We are ‘claiming’ the couples’ basic state pension, which is the princely sum of £139.60 a week – but still more than the single person’s pension of £87.30. Claiming an allowance called the Guarantee Credit – there to help pensioners without other savings or income – tops this up to £181.70 week. Another benefit of that is that your council tax bills are paid. In addition, we get the winter fuel allowance, worth up to £200 a year, free travel, free dental treatment, help with the cost of new glasses (!) and an extra £8.50 for each whole week the temperature goes below freezing. Wow…

These are our current monthly expenses, excluding groceries etc:

Council tax£127– paid for by guarantee credit

Mortgage n/a

Electricity £31

Water & sewage £14.57

Gas £41

Home contents insurance £32.38

Internet £14

Phone £14

Mobile (mine & DJ’s) £30

Charity contribution £18

Amazon DVD rental £9

Pet insurance £19

TV license £11.37

Petrol £30

Car insurance, tax etc.£44.30

TOTAL: £308.62

Out of a monthly pension of £726.80, this leaves us with £104.55 a week left over for groceries, going out and occasional expenses, so we may have to consider whether we can really afford to use the car and the DVD rental service, as well as finding the cheapest groceries to buy.

Meanwhile – an update on the TalkTalk debacle. How spooky! After all my rants for months about my TalkTalk problem I received a phone call yesterday afternoon. “Bet it’s one of those automated sales calls,” I growled to myself. For once it was a customer service bod from TalkTalk, who’d received my email and wanted to sort things out! Was I dreaming? Especially as the lady was called Precious! Anyway, she listened to my grievances and has requested that the extra month’s payment TalkTalk helped themselves to is returned, and the £70 cessation fee waived. She has to wait to find out if this will be approved, so fingers crossed! Paying out £82 for nothing would certainly blow a massive hole in our basic state pension that’s for sure. I’ve already had to put off getting the car serviced as last year it cost about £200.

Wish me luck! Any money saving suggestions/cheap recipes welcome!xxx

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46 Responses to Pensioned off

  1. snaggletooth says:

    This will be interesting to watch. I\’m sure you\’ll manage o.k. It\’s a good way to find out where costs can be cut if you have no choice, ( I know you do have a choice to forget the whole idea, but I don\’t see that happening! ).  Good luck.

  2. michaela says:

    "this leaves us with a measly £104.55 a week left over for groceries, going out and occasional expenses" – There are many people in the UK that dont even get £104.55 a week for everyday living, not just groceries, going out and expenses? So really how much can two people eat? about £50 a week on an average estimate (unless eating is cheaper in scotland) so that leaves you with about £50 a week to spend frivously. I\’d say you were doing pretty well.

  3. piper says:

    Ok no name –  I humbly take your point and so have removed the offending adjective.  You are quite right. It\’ll be fine unless some major expense comes up – I\’m praying our ancient boiler doesn\’t break down…

  4. paula says:

    It might be worth joining Freecycle and put wanted ad\’s in for anything that you may need outside of basics like food and electricity.  Things like bags of clothes are regularly advertised for free

  5. Tattyhousehastings says:

    Think we\’re in the same experiment as you, \’cept occasionally resort to having to spend money, either on a credit card just \’cos, or pennies if we\’re being good. You\’ll do fine, just invite friends over rather than go out, and cook from scratch (boring boring boring)…also suggest sneaking bottle of gin in to equation. Might also be worth joining one of those repair your boiler schemes, we\’re with British Gas, but would not recommend them unless like us boiler is so old no one else will touch it!
    Also do a bit of uswitching, you can even get free crate of wine or cash with some switches, plus save money too hopefully!
    Best of British

  6. Denise says:

    Something to consider yourself lucky with!
    I know it\’s hard but allow yourself to feel grateful that you are not only getting income support as it\’s la lot less money for a couple and you don\’t get the heating allowances either.  In fact compared to people on income support you are rich and sadly i\’m not joking. 
    Practical advice is to shop at \’ASDA\’ as is cheaper than Tesco (even in the long run). Plan your daily meals in advance so that you don\’t buy more food than you actually need.  Be prepared on less money it takes longer to shop as in order to make ends meet you need to look for the smart price goods and offers.  Today (Wednesday) I was left with £90 for shopping until Monday.  Out of that I feed four adults breakfast, Lunch and a cooked dinner, three cats, one dog, three rabbits (daily fresh veg as well as their cereal) a degu and a hampster.  I will have £40 on Monday for food and that will cover me until wednesday again.  If you plan your meals well you can do it.  We have a roast dinner with all the trimmings and pudding every Sunday (any left over meat used for sandwiches for supper or lunch the nexty day) and a what I call a gravy dinner during the week (for example Meat pie, potatoes, tinned carrots and peas.  We have spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread, Fish, chips, mushy peas and parsley sauce, Sausage egg and chips (or beef burger), microwave meals with chips (for example chicken curry),  very often we will have the same meal twice during the week for example a pack of twenty sausages will do two dinners.  So I\’ll buy sausages one week and burgers the next. Breakfast consists of cereal and or toast and spreads and i\’ve always got plenty of eggs.  Lunch is sandwiches ( either ham, cheese, chicken roll or egg) with or without crisps and pickle or mayonaise (as thats what my lot likes).  I also buy cheap biscuits, cakes, apple pies, malt loaf and scones for snacks.  I have tried fruit but no one eats it however I buy plenty of summer fruit squash.  Shopping online is no good as all the cheaper products are not all listed and neither are all the offers so I don\’t do that anymore.  Depending where you are going to do your shopping it is sometimes cheaper to get a taxi back than for two of you to catch a bus.  Also Idon\’t know if you have heard of if you join up and are accepted, for scanning all the barcodes on the food you buy and transmitting the codes through your computer once a week they pay the equivalent to £1 a week and you get a little more with the odd survey they ask you to complete.  They don\’t pay in cash but when you have the equivalent of £10 you can claim it in a £10 voucher.  I save up and cash in £50 worth of vouchers (normally for smiths or argos) at christmas time (unless I need a new kettle or something before hand) and use them for presents.   I hope this helps and if I can help any more let me know.
    Denise (aged 42)

  7. Mark says:

    That is just not frugal you really have no idea of the real world i have £72.55 incapacity benefit and that is it ! I have 3 children yet no tax credit as i was hospitalised when forms should be returned no Child maintenance as parent lives outwith jurisdiction Child benefit goes straight to children at college / university one of whom is existing on £41.55 and the kindness of family.
    Is it possible – NO but i am aware it is luxury compared to the third world. i have no idea how some people seem to claim a decent living on benefits while exhibiting a slight limp yet others who have worked themselves into permanent chronic incapacity seem to fail on one technicality after another.

  8. Mark says:

    I would have thought frugality is the fight against global warming and should be commended.

  9. Graham says:

    Unemployed through choice I have to live off my savings.  No top ups or anything from the government.  I live on less than £100 a week.  My food budget is £10 a week.  My biggest bill by far is council tax at £20 per week.  Mobile phone, charity donations, rent DVD – you have to be kidding.

  10. Lloyd says:

    Hello my name is Lloyd I am on an apprenticeship scheme I will be earning myself an It Practitioner NVQ level 3 maybe higher and also there is the option of gaining a Nationally recognized qualification COMPTIA. 
    I only earn £90 a week, because Im on a training scheme, this is ridiculus as I can save just under £100 each month the rest Is spent on Bus fares and food.
     If can actually ever afford a car My Insurance would be a very painfull £268.00 a month, This is without MOT, tax, fuel and the many other expenses of owning a car.
    I admit I still live at home with my mum, but although she has helped me finacialy to get into work she does not help me with anything else she simply cant afford it,
    I now owe her over £200, and this is money spent on travel in a few months.
    How am I actually expected to survive on this salary £18 a day £2.11 an hour? surely someone (dare I say the government) should recognize that we deserve more than this.
    I understand that Apprenticeships are goverment funded so theres not much chance of geting a bigger salary, even just an extra £20 a month would help!!   Maybe the businesses that take us on could at least spare this or half and the government or a group like Connexions could pay the other half.
    If the goverment wants to stamp out teenagers not getting the right qualifications they should act now, people in my situation or find it hard enough to get an apprenticeship let alone keep one, I work really hard and I am under no circumstances giving this learning oppurtunity up.
    In fact I am actually looking for a weekend job to cover my expenses but It would have to be on a Sunday so I at least get one day of rest!!  
    I may post this comment or extract the main points and create an E-petition on number 10s website so just search e petition and you will soon find it wish me luck and thankyou for your time.

  11. Michael says:

    First of all, you are not pensioners, so several of your expenses are unnessesary. Being young you obviously have a far different lifestyle than I. You have to prepare for a more frugal lifestyle, so your mobile tarriffs are ridiculous. Mine is pay as you go, which because as a pensioner I hardly use it costs £30 per year. You can\’t afford charity donations and your car expenses would be nothing like that if you were a pensioner. If you are paying DVD rentals you have too much idle time on your hands. Nobody said it was beer and skittles on a pension but it is easier than you make out. You just have to apply some lateral thinking. I think thats what they call it.

  12. J says:

    I don\’t normally write on these blogs but…."Claiming an allowance called the Guarantee Credit – there to help pensioners without other savings or income – tops this up to £181.70 week"  So if someone has spent their lives in the pub drinking away their savings the rest of us are expected to keep them in retirement – that\’s hardly fair.  I\’m in my 20\’s, own house, own sports car (all paid for by saving), now I\’m in a position to go out have fun and also save for the future.

  13. Marie-Lise Rosemay says:

    Well, you are so lucky to be living on over 100.00 pounds a week, for the last year my partner an I have been living on jobseekers allowance through redundency that he did not get anymoney from, we have been living on 95.00pounds  a week in this we needed to save for gaz, elec, tel, insurance for the dog, house content and fares to go looking for work or shopping. If you are clever enough with your spending you can even save on what you are getting I did to give the grand kids a xmas gift. Someone mention shopping at ASDA I can tell you there\’s even cheaper place out there like ALDI, Morrison, NETTO, poor people has the instinc to be wise in their spending. Thankfully for us my partner just find a job but I will carry on shopping where prices are reasonable.

  14. Campbell says:

    How can you possibly be spending £180 a quarter on fuel bills between
    two people? Change supplier! Living in a two bedroom flat, I and my
    partner spend £35 a month on fuel. Your gas alone is more than that!

    I also agree with the comment above, why would a pensioner be spending
    £30 a month on a mobile phone? £19 a month on pet insurance? £9 on
    Amazon DVD rental? These are hardly essentials.

    I also don\’t really see the logic in claiming assistance from the state
    in a manner that is effectively charity, to then donate it back? Even
    if you could see logic in that, if you can\’t afford to pay for your own
    food then charitable donations are secondary and should be removed from
    whatever money is left AFTER you have paid for groceries.

  15. Campbell says:

    Between 2 people for £104 a week you could quite easily food shop at Marks and Spencer!

  16. Leanne says:

    Easy peasy – i live on way less than that – after i\’ve paid my huge mortgage & all the bills, myself & my partner have approx £200 to live on per month for food & other expenses & I manage it every month – this "experiment" is a joke!
    Lots of people – some with children – live on a lot less than this everyday!

  17. Victoria says:

    Just thought I\’d leave my opinion! I am unable to work so my partner is the only earner, he earns just under £1000 per month, we pay £801 a month on mortgage and council tax! We have a 3 month old daughter, we get tax credits and child benefits totalling £295 a month, we then have to pay an old loan at £132 per month, tv licence, gas and electric, tv and phone, water rates, home insurance etc by the time everything is paid we have a maximum of £30 a week to shop, get baby items and occassionally socialise and we are just managing so I think you are doing this experiment with far too much money!!! (Although if anything breaks we would be in …. street!) h and cheap meals….bag of frozen veg 56p, 7 packs of noodles £1.40, pack of 20 frozen sausages £1.39= £3.35 for a weeks food when very skint!

  18. mike says:

    You  can  get  free  travel,  cheap  haircuts,  have  your  lunch  at  a  community  centre,  free  home  insulation,  for  recipe  tips  on  living  for  under  30  quid  a  week  request  my  pack  if  you\’re  brave  and  don\’t  forget  do  your  supermarket  rounds  between  8and  9  in  the  evening.  i  bought  a  cooked  chicken  [just]  for  62p  in  somerfield  and  a  loaf  of  bread  for  5p  in  asda,  use  vinegar  for  your  household  chores  and  charity  shops  for  your  clothes.  Oh  to  be  retired!!

  19. piper says:

    Thanks for all the comments guys.  Mucho appreciated.  And thanks for all the money saving tips.  Just thought I\’d answer some of your comments.
    Re expenses – I did explain that these are our current & pre-pension experiment expenses and are therefore are not written in stone and can be changed!!  The gas & electric are steep, for example, and so we\’ll be looking at changing supplier.  The DVD rental is also not written in stone! We got this a while ago because there was nothing on telly and it worked out cheaper than blockbuster/cinema trips, but since we got a freeview box tv viewing has improved, well, marginally. If you like daily re-runs of the Two Ronnies…
    As for the mobile phone bill – this is actually two mobile phones, DJ\’s & mine and we are both on pay as you go. This was a rough estimate of usage, which again can be reduced by er…not using it! I currently use it for work, which obviously I won\’t be doing as  a pensioner. 
    Some of you feel that as a \’pensioner\’ my budget is too high. But these are genuine pension allowances that I am \’claiming\’. Bear in mind that I\’ll be doing a number of experiments this year and will also be exploring the difficulties of living on income support too. If you\’ve got any other suggestions for future frugal tasks or experiments for me, do get in touch by leaving a comment or sending me a message through windows live spaces.  
    And re the charity donation, I sponsor a little girl in Senegal through World Vision and frankly I\’d rather cut down on expenses elsewhere in my own pocket than see her go without.  Call me frivolous if you like.

  20. rachel says:

    i cant believe you are moaning about having only £104 a week left after you have paid bills,as a single mother to 3 young children i get only £184 a week and i have to pay bills,i cant afford nice clothes for my kids or toys let alone the dvd rentals you get.How can you afford to go out and have the internet if your so poor?id love to take my kids out but i just havent got the money,i cant afford to own a car or taxi fares.Your a very silly person and you shouldnt be complaing when some people are much worse off than you through no fault of their own,shame on you.

  21. Unknown says:

    My mum is a pensioner, and even at 75 she still has a small mortgage to pay out of her state pension, She also has a small private pension so this cancels out any benefits she might get help with, like her council tax. (even thou she\’s only over about £10 to qualify) Not all pensioners get help from the state with their council tax and when this bill is deducted out of their pension then opps, there goes their money. Not all pensioners live in small houses, or flats, many still own a fair sized house with a fair sized council tax bill to go with it. What is so unfair is that, the majority of these pensioners worked hard, many served our country, lived to tell the tale and hoped to enjoy there well earned retired life – but they don\’t as their measly pension is swallowed up by bills, bills and more bills. In my fathers case, he worked hard, had his own business, payed huge sums into a private pension so he could really enjoy his retirement, retired on his 70th birthday and died 3 months later. All that money he ploughed into his private pension wasted.

  22. Tommy says:

    hi there i am also living on a basic allowance of just under £100 a week basically mostly make all my own home made soups lentils broths just using basic low cost ingredients but like everything else when your shopping each week you see the amounts of price changes in different stores which you need to watch for and as fo petrol i only use the car when really needed because of the rise in price in petrol too but hope you can manage and good luck from Tommy

  23. piper says:

    Hello no name.  I\’m sorry to hear you are finding it hard to make ends meet raising three kids as a single parent. Perhaps you could tell us how you do this and what money saving tips you\’ve acquired along the way.  And I\’m NOT moaning!!!   

  24. GRAHAM says:

    WHEY HEY!!  Roll on retirement I\’ll actually be better off, I work 50 hrs a week on mimimun wage and dont have hardly anything left over, Credit card bills are increasing month by month just to live. On a helpful note your contents insurance is way to high Mine is with SAGA house and contents £14 pm. 

  25. Aidan says:

    Interesting stuff!  I\’ve been broke for years – so a few suggestions for you.
    1.  I suggest you take sponge baths from a bucket of warm water obtained via the kettle instead of boiling up a huge tank of hot water.
    2.  Heat one room only and use a \’bottle-gas\’ operated fire as a suppliment.
    3.  Also, grow your own – even a window trough right up to a large plot.
    4.  Maybe do pay-as-you-go mobiles and use them less.
    5.  Make your own wine (30 bottles about 70p each).
    6.  And remember, hold on to your man – I am single and too poor to attract or go out with women, so don\’t end up lonely.

  26. Dino says:

    Try living off it for a month, and project how this would work out over a year. 
    I am in my twenties, but I think it is disgraceful, when you think of the cost of living, and the tax contibuted by the elderly over their lifetime. 
    Consider the comparative benefits Europeans over here are squeezing out of the system, and ask if it is fair.

  27. Malcolm says:

    How do you think us ex Brits who live on a fix pension live if we lived in the US we would get our pension indexed but as we live  in Canada we are fixed at the rate when we turn 65 years old.Do you think this is fair just to let you know Australia and South Africa are the in the same position living abroad.We are living hand to mouth to surive ?

  28. Marius says:

    Sorry but I have to say your talking absolute rubbish.
    Im currently in receipt of income support (as they wont pay me Incapacity due to some error on my Tax payments) and I LIVE ON £59 a week.
    Tell you what, you give me the differance and I\’ll tell you exactly how I can happily live on what your getting. Until then, keep your dumb articles of the msn homepage eh?

  29. annemarie says:

    i am 21 years old with a 18 month old daughter i have to live on 92 pound a week that is for nappies gas electric clothes for my daughter wen her get to small i have had to buy things out a charity shop before cos i cant afford to but expensive stuff for her she dont go without but it is hard i have to buy all the food shoppping aswell i get no help from her dad so i dont c how u cant live on 188 per week fow two adults u dont have nappies n stuff to buy pet insurance who needs it dvd rentals watch good old television or do ur own entertainment car insurance get a bus pesioners get a bus pass for free travel

  30. jennene says:

    good for you for asking for suggestions.i would say get rid of your home phone maybe an get a better deal on your for the abuse your getting its terrible.i am a single working mum of 2.i manage my finances pretty well.we dont have lots of luxurys but we dont go without to much.for the single mums moaning get out there get a job an get a life…dont get anywere moaning about it it.oh an maybe use yer free bus pass more saves on petrol.

  31. sue says:

    I notice you have not allowed any money for clothing or shoes. Fine for a you for just a month but pensioners would need to buy clothes and shoes. Also they may like to buy birthday presents and Christmas presents for their family too. Most pensioners have a little savings which they have worked hard for all their lives and so would not qualify for the perks of guarantee credit that you have included. Not all pensioners can drive and some do not feel safe enough to go out at night to large supermarkets looking for bargains. Some pensioners may not even be well enough to do so. Pensioners who are not so active through ill health would need extra heating. A pensioner friend of mine has a large house with an inefficient heating system, which she cannot afford to replace. However she doesn\’t feel she can move from the area as she is near her hospital and doctor for her long-term health problems and also near a close relative. Hence much of her pension is taken up with heating costs. I\’m sure the experiment you are doing is laudable but I think information from actual pensioners living on the basic pension would be more helpful as they could outline the long-term effects. It is also easy to live on reduced goods and same meals each day when this is only for a month but I\’m sure it would get depressing if you knew you had to do this for the rest of your life. Not everyone is fit enough to get a part-time job after retiring(and anyway -why should they?)and despite PC guidelines , I suspect it\’s not so easy to get a job as a pensioner – besides -wouldn\’t that disqualify you from the guarantee credit/ My pensioner friend also has to pay a large council tax bill, because the house prices in her area have vastly increased since she first bought it some 40yrs ago. It\’s good that people are commenting with their hints and tips though. I will be taking note for when I retire in 12yrs time!-Sue

  32. sue says:

    I also note you have only included the cost of home contents insurance – what about the cost of buildings insurance?

  33. piper says:

    Wow – I\’ve been quite overwhelmed by the number of comments people have left – the sheer detail about their lives and all the helpful suggestions. Thanks so much.  And I\’m shocked and humbled by how little some of you are living on.  Keep the suggestions coming – I want to hear how you survive on your budgets and your money saving tips and tricks – I\’ll be trying a lot of them out in the coming month. 
    I will also be getting out there and meeting real pensioners to find out how they live. All in good time!
    Sue – yes that\’s a good point about clothes & shoes.  Pensioners can\’t wear sackcloth after all!
    Ah no name – stupidly forgot to include that that contents insurance figure includes buildings insurance too. 
    Have a good weekend everyone.  I\’ll be spending it watching all the DVDs from Amazon before I cancel the subscription due to all the stick I\’ve got about it!  xxx

  34. snaggletooth says:

    Told you this would be interesting to watch! Some good comments, some, understandably, unhappy because they manage to live on less than you\’re allowing. The point is, you\’re managing on less than you normally budget for, that\’s the challenge. I\’ve had to manage on much less myself many times in the past and less than ideal at the moment too!

  35. Michelle says:

    Hi, I just came across your blog!"Sorry but I have to say your talking absolute rubbish. Im currently in receipt of income support (as they wont pay me
    Incapacity due to some error on my Tax payments) and I LIVE ON £59 a
    week. Tell you what, you give me the differance and I\’ll tell you exactly how I can happily live on what your getting."Rude and bitter much?  Tell you what, why don\’t you stop wasting your time here if that\’s your opinion. If you have nothing nice to say…Honestly, some people!

  36. Jez says:

    Not to be critical or anything, but \’learning to live with dirty windows\’?? With so much free time and so little money, would it occur to er, clean them yourself?? Duh!

  37. simon says:

    i think if you were really skint the pet would have to go?, let alone insure it

  38. Clifford says:

    Living on the State Pension may not sound too rosy to most people until you consider existing on basic Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance. Obviously having similar expenses to everyone else i.e gas, electricity, water, and food  etc but only receiving around £60.00 pw try living on that for size. You have no idea.

  39. chovihani says:

      Cut down your charity contributions, pack in amazon dvd, do your own windows, shop around for cheaper pet insurance and decide which phone service you really need.

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