2015: The big money reckoning

put a wetsuit on 2015 resized
Put a wetsuit on – Dave in 2015.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have two main aims with LiveLight: 1) to become financially independent (independent of the need to work to pay the bills); 2) to live a two tonne lifestyle (two tonnes of greenhouse gas per year from the things I buy). I discovered some time ago that these two goals are closely linked – as you reduce your living costs you also reduce your carbon footprint. The money I’ve saved from living a (near) two tonne lifestyle has allowed me to make some pretty dramatic and positive changes to my life.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t save what you don’t count. So at the end of 2014 I added up everything our family spent over the year on food, fuel, and stuff throughout the whole year. I’ve done it again this year. Here are the results.

Good Numbers

For 2015, our family of five spent:

  • £832 on fuel for our family estate car. (£1101 in 2014, £269 less)
  • £281 on gas for heating, hot water and cooking at home (£240 in 2014, £41 more)
  • £424 on electricity for appliances and lighting at home (£438 in 2014, £14 more)

Record low oil prices and an insanely warm autumn/early winter have definitely helped to keep these figures pretty low. The average UK family would have at least twice the gas and electricity bill, and three times the average car fuel bill. So our saving against the ‘average’ bill has been around £2,400. Not a bad little bonus, and it’s certainly a helpful figure to help pay off a bit more of the mortgage each year, but it isn’t going to get us to our goal of financial independence very quickly. So let’s move on to…

Food. What the…..?

We spent over £9,000 on food last year – £179 a week on average. Food is a big deal to us, and we buy a lot of really top quality stuff.

Organic vegetables and sweet pea flowers on a wooden table.
This food was organic, local, and free. But most of the food we ate in 2015 cost a packet!

Nearly all of our food is organic. I love to cook for other people, and entertaining at home is what we do instead of going out (we spent £681 on eating out last year, which isn’t really that much).  I will also admit that this figure includes a fair amount of alcohol, and it also includes ‘treat food’ for holidays and Christmas.  But I’m still gobsmacked by this total. On the positive side, it is lower than last year, so the efforts are working. But more is needed.  If we can take a bigger chunk out of the food costs, we are well on our way to meeting our financial goals in 2016. Further plans to reduce our food bill are underway, and I’ll report back on these soon.

More good numbers

As a family with three young, rapidly growing kids we have an ongoing need for new clothes. Accordingly, the clothes budget should be high, but my figures show we spent £2,591 on clothes in 2015, for all five of us. I can’t find a decent benchmark that works against other people in a similar situation to ours, but that looks pretty damn impressive to me. If you are doing better, let me know!

We had a good year for holidays, with two trips to Cornwall, a week in north Wales, and three weeks camping in a secluded spot at the amazing Graig Wen campsite in Snowdonia over the summer. Six weeks of UK based holidays cost a total of £1,658, an average of about £40 a night for the five of us, or £8 a head, which I think is pretty damn reasonable. (This includes two weeks in holiday cottages when the good old UK weather can be a bit rough for family camping.)

Obviously this isn’t the sum total of our spend. There’s plenty more. I’ve focused on these items, because, along with housing costs, they are the most expensive elements of life’s essentials.

The Greenhouse Gas burners

On the sustainable living front, our household produced a total of 12 tonnes of greenhouse gas. At 2.5 tonnes for each family member,that’s around a fifth of the UK national average. Here’s a graph of where our emissions came from in 2015 from our Home Cost Tracker

2015 co2e by source

This is good, but the goal for me remains two tonnes (f you are interested, here’s why.). As you can see, the bulk of our emissions – and the ridiculous £9,000 a year costs – are now from food production rather than fuel. So this is where I’ll be focusing in 2016.

Happy new year!


Find out how much you are spending AND how much a two tonne lifestyle could save you, with our free Cost and Carbon Calculator.

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