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How I Spend My Money: A widower on €209 disability benefit per week and renting in Dublin's commuter belt

He is also delivering food to top-up his weekly income.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on that looks at what people in Ireland really do with their cash.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of how much they earn, how much they save, if anything, and what they spend their money on over the course of one week. Want to take part? Details on how to do it are at the bottom of the piece.

Each money diary is submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that their situation will not be relatable for everyone, it is simply an account of a week in their shoes. 

After three submissions from people saving for a mortgage, we’re publishing a money diary kept by a widower in his sixties living on disability benefits. 


Occupation: Retired, but deliver food and volunteer locally
Age: 60+
Location: Dublin’s commuter belt
Salary: ~€500 (total yearly pay for delivery work)
Monthly pay (net): €838 (disability benefit) 

Monthly expenses
Rent: €208 (I receive Housing Assistance Payment)
Household bills: Heating (€80), broadband (€75) with Eir, just about to change as it’s far too dear!
Transport: Tolls (€53), insurance (~€58) – also, van tax is €157 every three months and the annual Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Test (CVRT) fee is €152. AA membership (€34) – I find I have little strength in my hands, which makes even changing a wheel very difficult.
Phone bill: €40 per month, includes a new phone.
Health insurance: €0. I have a medical card fortunately. My medicines would cost approximately €400 per month, if I had to pay full cost. I have a discount deal with the pharmacist so I get half off the normal payment, €12.50 monthly. I’m also waiting on an urgent scan for four months!
Groceries: ~€300
Subscriptions: Skype subscription (€5), I use my son’s Netflix, which I view on my late wife’s Kindle. I have free-to-air television which I never watch!

I’m over 60 years old, a widower living alone and disabled. I live on disability benefit of €209.50 per week – this includes a living alone allowance of €9 and €2.50 phone allowance and a ‘household benefits’ payment of €35.65 per month. This is an electricity allowance and includes a free television licence.

I’m entitled to free transport, but as there are no buses near me and no railway stations in the part of the country I live, that is pretty moot. On disability, if your doctor approves, you may take up ‘rehabilitative employment’, which allows you to earn up to €120 per week without affecting other payments.

So I occasionally deliver food locally when they’re short of staff, which supplements my income a little and helps me to run a car and buy groceries. I also get free meals on duty. I operate a savings account and a current account. The savings account is used to decant from the current account every week so I have money put by for heat, CVRT and van tax. I have no savings as such. I have a credit card that I use as backup and try to keep paid down as often as possible. I don’t smoke and very rarely drink. I also have a small terrier and spend €25 on dog food every three weeks.



Up at 7:00 am. Took my daughter and son-in-law who live nearby to the bus for Dublin, they’re mature students at university. At home, breakfast of tomatoes and cheese, two eggs and the variable – sausages today. Then off to Lidl, Supervalu and Tesco (in order of lowest prices) to buy groceries. If there was an Aldi locally, the order would be Aldi, Lidl, Supervalu and then Tesco.

Lunch – homemade mushroom soup. It lasts three days, and I have mushrooms and onions on toast as well. I carry a water bottle with a slice of fruit for taste. Keeps the waste of empty water bottles down – and the cost too.

Ophthalmology appointment today. Some retinal changes due to diabetes – I have an annual diabetic retinal check.

Dinner is pork from Lidl, which was 30% off, some noodles and some Indonesian satay sauce. I detest cooking for one.

I volunteer locally so off to a meeting in the evening and pick up family at 10:10 pm.

Today’s total: €49.61


Up at 5:00 am. I have an appointment in the respiratory clinic today. I use a machine to assist my breathing at night as I have sleep apnoea.

I drop family to the bus at 6:45 am. Breakfast is cheese and tomatoes, leftover pork and two eggs.

Lunch is mushroom soup and salad and I have homemade beef bourguignon and vegetables, done in my slow cooker, for dinner.

Bought oven cleaner in SuperValu for €3.99 and two books on my Kindle for €7.76. Frikadellen meatballs and vegetables for dinner. Pickup family earlier than usual.

Today’s total: €11.75


I drop family to the bus for 06:45 am. Usual breakfast of tomatoes, cheese, sausages and eggs afterwards.

It’s benefit day today – so I get €209.50. I pay off €40 to my credit card. I head over to my orthotics appointment.

Soup and sandwich for lunch.

I’m delivering food tonight until midnight, so there’s a free meal with work.

As usual, I pick up my family from the bus.

Today’s total: €40


Same routine to get family to the bus and usual breakfast after.

I do the main shop of the week in Lidl, €22.13. I blew 79 cent on pate for a treat, what the hell – live large I say! That’ll get the begrudgers going. 

Today’s total: €22.13


Usual morning and evening routine with the family.

I pay €10 Skype bill. It allows me to have calls, which otherwise would be charged. I have lived and worked in four countries, so I have many friends abroad. My savings account is fed by a standing order of €42.25 weekly. Rent (€52) and van insurance (~€58) also paid.

Bought a small mixing bowl for €6 to make homemade hollandaise sauce – I love eggs benny! Bought onions, carrots and celery today (~€2) to make my own chicken stock for soup – I’m a soupaholic. It’s a good day if I have soup – it’s a better day if I have it twice!

Today’s total: €8


Different routine today. Bought fried crispy onions and peanuts for texture for mixed salads, which I love, and processed soup at Supervalu. I’m a man on a mission! I’m constantly on the lookout in shops for the ‘golden fleece’ of soups. I keep thinking I’ll find it someday. Sadly again, not today. Nothing beats homemade.

Again, damn the begrudgers, I buy a panini for a sandwich for 39 cent in Lidl! Spot a chicken in the 30% off bin at Lidl as well. I take it home and have it cooked and frozen by evening. I use the freezer for leftovers, I keep one drawer full of vegetables to ensure my five-a-day and for bits and pieces I find as bargains. Annual examples include turkeys at about 4.5 kilos for around €7 at Supervalu at this time of year. I would cook and freeze it, including the carcass for stock.

Today’s total: €8.75


Lie in today! And then the usual breakfast.

Off to family dinner at 3:00 pm. It’s a new custom and an enjoyable one, they pay today. I love to spend relaxing time with my daughter and son-in-law. We’re usually so busy that it’s good to catch up. My son is in Spain and a tattooist and piercer by trade. I love them all dearly – doting dad stuff. 

Doing deliveries tonight and so get a free meal, which I take home and will have on Monday.

Today’s total: €0

Weekly subtotal: €140.26

What I’ve learned:

  • To be honest, not much! I keep close tabs on my books. I operate a free bank account – grandfathered in – saving about €30 or so every charging period. I have an overdraft arrangement (costing €25 plus interest per annum) which ensures the bills get paid on time no matter when they fall due.
  • I use computer banking for literally everything. I know where every penny is coming from and going to. On a limited income I have to – folk who have little know exactly how much they have!
  • I consult the website Money Guide Ireland for annual changes of service providers and go with the best bargain on the day.

Are you a spender, a saver or a splurger? We’re looking for readers who will keep a money diary for a week. If you’re interested send a mail to 


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