Category: End of Year Big Reckonings

2016 Big Money Reckoning: an expensive year

I usually try to write my big money reckonings around New Year’s Eve, to sum up the year and hopefully inspire anyone who is looking to make some meaningful new year resolutions. So writing this in June means that things have slipped quite badly this year. The reasons are that I have been busy moving house and developing my (small) property portfolio. Apart from the upheaval, it also follows that 2016 was an expensive year. I’ve tried to split out the investment-related money, but it hasn’t been an easy job, if I’m honest.

Good numbers

In spite of this, there are some good numbers here. The sums show that our household spent a total of £2,000 on our car (fuel, maintenance, payments, repairs, and parking). Half of this is fuel, £1065, which is up from £832 last year. The increase is due to lots of ferrying back and forth between various properties – breaking my general rule of thumb that I try to minimise the number of short journeys. I will have lost an amount on depreciation too, of course, but this is all about money that went out of my account over the past twelve months.

We also spent £625 on gas and electricity for the year – in spite of heating two houses for a couple of months over the winter, whilst we moved to a bigger property. This is partly because we got quite a lot of cash refunded from our energy provider when we moved house – our direct debits were set at £50 a month for gas and electricity, but we still didn’t use that much!. Also, the winter weather never really turned up again – average temperatures in February and March were well above the average for my UK location, and sadly the sledges were not required – there wasn’t more than a flake or two of snow on any day over the winter.

Food spend is still catastrophic!

Once again, though, our food spend was really too high. We buy nearly all organic, and with a growing, hungry family the children are starting to eat as much (or more) than an average grown up now. We have done a lot of entertaining over the past year, and there is quite a lot of wine, beer and other treats in the food total too. Food and drink are the mainstay of our entertainment these days. But it’s still too high and once again will be a focus for 2017. I know of course that I could just go to Aldi like everyone else, but I’m looking for the ‘sweet spot’ where organic and top quality local, seasonal food is a similar price as what you can buy in the supermarket. Watch this space…

What about the carbon footprint?

The Home Cost Tracker results are pretty decent.  Our total household carbon footprint was around 15 tonnes. So our family of five produces as much as the national UK average for one person. That footprint is just over 3 tonnes each, still a tonne off the safe level and my two tonne target, but not much changed from last year.

 

Unsurprisingly, food and our car accounted for the biggest chunks of greenhouse gas in 2016, followed by gas and electricity (1).

So, overall, although it’s been an expensive year, it hasn’t really bumped up our carbon footprint by much at all. The challenge for 2017 and beyond will be to keep the costs and carbon low in a larger house.

Good luck!

Dave

P.S. If you want to cut costs and reduce your carbon footprint, I highly recommend trying the free LiveLight cost and carbon snapshot. It’s free, it takes 5 minutes, and will give you a great starting point to go from.

(1) Greenhouse gas figures relate to April 2016- March 2017, so they don’t read across directly to spend, which is June 2016-June 2017. But there hasn’t been any significant change.

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.