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How I Spend My Money: A 37-year-old who just signed on the dole before the Covid-19 crisis hit

This week, our reader comes to terms with life in isolation on a small budget.

TheJournal.ie reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie running weekly and looking 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.

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. If you’d like to document your spending, or lack thereof during this Covid-19 period, we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to money@thejournal.ie and we’ll be in touch.

Last week, we heard from a 35-year-old man from Dublin living in Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden for the past six years. This week, our reader is a 37-year-old junior civil servant who signed on to social welfare just before Covid-19 hit as his contract had ended. His diary was written before the last tougher social restrictions came into place.

how i spend my money

I am a 37-year-old man from Dublin and I returned to university as a mature student to study journalism a few years ago. I found it hard enough to get full-time work in media so I found myself working in a call centre for a large company for two years. I nearly lost the will to live doing that, so decided to apply to the civil service and I got a temporary appointment in the prison service. 

I had enjoyed the time working in this department but the contract was temporary, so that finished up at the end of February, meaning I had to sign on. I am waiting on interviews for further civil service roles, but as things stand, it’s hard to know if the recruitment process will be extended as a result of the crisis 

I immediately applied for social welfare to get some breathing space ahead of deciding what to do. I wasn’t really in a hurry as my lease had just finished in my flat in Dublin city centre so in terms of pressures being brought on by the crisis I was doing OK. 

When the Covid-19 thing kicked off, I panicked as my mum and dad both have underlying health conditions, so I was afraid to cause any hassles for them. Some old friends of mine, a couple, live in Dublin and invited me to stay with them. We know each other for over 15 years, so it’s working pretty well, this whole isolation thing, as we share the cooking and cleaning load.

Occupation: Civil service clerk
Age: 37
Location: Dublin/Meath
Salary: Base was €26,000, now on social welfare
Monthly pay (net): €203 per week

Monthly expenses 

Phone bill: €20
Subscriptions: Spotify €5 Netflix €10
***

Monday 

8am: It’s the first week of proper isolation in Ireland. We’re not quite on lockdown. You can still go for walks, but pretty much everything is closed. I was in town walking around over the weekend though and I couldn’t’ believe how many people were still about. Lots of my friends are still working in offices.

8.05am: I’ve made the mistake of checking social media and the news is so bad about Covid-19, so I turn around and go back to sleep. I’m not ready to deal with this new reality.

9.30am: Everyone is up now. One of my friends has to work today so he’s in the small office they have. They both work so I’m doing my best to help out by cooking nice breakfasts and dinners whenever I can. We’re all into cooking nice food, so there’s no suggestion any of us will starve during this time. Today, I’m doing poached eggs with spinach on toast, with Lidl’s pesto. We did a monster shop in Lidl on Saturday. It wasn’t a panic buy, because we are hammering through food, isolating as if it were Christmas week. None of the food is going to waste.

12pm: Breakfast finished and cleaning done. Now what? I’m struggling to come to terms with not working, let alone this new dystopian world we live in. I decide to video-call a couple of friends.

1.30pm: Myself and my friend decide to go to the Phoenix Park for a walk. She’s on her bike and I attempt to cycle her husband’s one. We’ve decided, like most people in Ireland, that the great outdoors is going to be our saviour at this time. Who knew walks were the new dancing on tables? We bring some sandwiches and a flask of coffee, so we don’t spend anything. Phoenix Park is packed but lovely and we enjoy our walk, cycle and picnic.

4pm: Well, we’ve wasted a good couple of hours in the park and are now headed home. I stop off at the local shop and get a bottle of Coke (my guilty pleasure), some crisps and chocolate. Methinks I am comfort eating this week. That comes to €4.25.

Today’s total: €4.25

Tuesday 

10am: Wake up, weather is freezing, so over this Covid-19 stuff so I stay in bed.

12pm:  OK, not my finest hour but I slept in and now I feel human again. Sure, what else am I getting up for? It’s not my style, however as I do like to always be up and showered and ready for the day. I’m consoling myself with the idea that we’re all processing a lot and sometimes you just need a good rest. I get up and make some food and head out for a walk.

2pm: I video chat with my family. My parents are in great form and at this stage, they’re laughing at all our panic. But I think it’s bravado, they are concerned about what they see in the news. One thing about their generation though, they’re not into the drama, they just get on with it. My siblings and I will be fine through all of this once my family stays healthy.

3pm: We all decide to hit the couch and watch movies. We cook a nice dinner and don’t move for the rest of the day. We’re on a news embargo, too. Sometimes you just need a break.

Today’s total: €0

Wednesday

10am: The social restrictions are really starting to bite. I go for a walk in the park and then head towards town. On the way, I drop into Dealz and pick up some toiletries and cosmetics. That comes to €12.00.

2pm:  Getting bored again so I head out on a cycle down the canal to get exercise. The town is so quiet with hardly anybody around. Also, I top up my phone with €20 credit. I have a deal with Vodafone so this will cover me for the next four weeks.

7pm: Not spending any money is actually totally feasible given how we all have to stay indoors. But even so, I get a packet of cigarettes from the shop, costing €13.50. Crikey, when you write it, it’s a scary amount. I am supposed to be quitting but what with the world being turned on its head I decide to pick my battles. Cigarettes are ridiculously expensive though and if this Covid-19 shutdown lasts much longer I am going to have to reconsider them.

Today’s total: €45.50 

Thursday 

7am: Wake up and decide to make breakfast. With all the free time and no work the skies really are the limits when it comes to breakfast. Do a quick reconnaissance of the shelves to see what we need. Wait until 8am until the shop opens to pick up eggs and bacon which come in around €4.10.

10am: The National Concert Hall has just refunded me for four tickets that I bought pre-crisis for concerts which were supposed to take place in April. I must resist the urge to waste it all on pandemic comforts. Although I still find myself looking at weights on Amazon, which I am pretty sure I will never use.

2pm: Take what feels like the 700th walk of the crisis towards Thomas Street. The regeneration of that area is really cool and the streetscape is starting to look slick. Too bad everything is closed. I join the queue to the supermarket which, to be honest, feels like something from the last days of communism. Everybody is sketchy, eyeballing each other and non verbally communicating a “don’t get in my space” vibe. I pick up a couple of groceries and then some bottles of wine. The cancelled concerts should at least be parlayed into some quarantine fun. The total bill for the shopping excursion is €36.

7pm: Take a stroll around the neighbourhood. It’s starting to feel like groundhog day. Everybody looking ashen as you walk towards them. I swing by Spar on the way home and grab water which costs €1. 

Today’s total: € 41.10

Friday

9am: Get up and take a stab at all the ironing that I need to do. Ordinarily, I am an iron-as-you-go kind of guy. But I decide to do it all in one go. Turns out I am turning into my Mother. Upon completion, I take a stroll with the dog around the neighbourhood and grab a coffee from the cafe attached to the local shop, which now has all the warmth of a train station at 2am. Total cost €3.

3pm: Decide that tonight I will cook a Thai curry for the household. We’re still ploughing through the massive shop we did the last week so we have plenty of ingredients. Still need to get an aubergine and some coconut milk, so I decided to walk down to the Lidl. Even at this early stage the queues to get in are quite considerable. I gather up what I need and head back. Total cost €3.30, which will pretty much conclude my expenditure for the day. 

Today’s total: €6.30 

Saturday 

9am: Everything changed last night as the Taoiseach announced a total shutdown, in all but name. We now have to only move within 2 km of a house, except to go shopping. Everyone was expecting it but it is still a shock. Get up, go for a run. It’s actually quite sunny out and the canals are pretty deserted which is nice. Stop at a convenience garage on the way back and pick up some treats. Total cost is €2.50.

11am: Have to go and pick up potatoes for the cooking, so I cycle to Rathmines and the total cost was €2. However, on the way back I get a puncture. It’s not the end of the world. Thankfully the local bike shop was winding down but not totally closed so I am able to get it repaired for €12.

7pm: As it’s the weekend and we are in dire need of some distraction from the onslaught of Covid 19 news, we decide that we should get some snacks and alcohol. I nip round to the local shop and pick up some crisps, dips and some gin and lime. Total cost €28.75.

Today’s total: €45.25

Sunday

9.30am: Do a weekly shop in local Aldi which comes in at €60. As we are all cooking in the house these groceries will pretty much last the week as we are strategically shopping in order to minimise waste. 

2.30pm: Take a walk in the local park. There are not too many people there on the way back I grab a coffee. Given how most of the nice place around have closed their doors the coffee options have really dwindled. I grab one from the convenience station and it costs €3.

7pm: I pick up some moisturiser online that is on sale. It was severely reduced in the sale so I decide to treat myself. It costs €20.

Today’s total: €83.00 

Weekly subtotal: €225.40 

What I’ve learned:  

  • I’ve never really lived an extravagant life, so really, another storm like this Covid-19 one is not going to break me.
  • Hard to really get real insights into spending habits as the crisis has altered our spending habits. 
  • I’m really in trouble when the proverbial ‘rainy day’ comes, but really, aren’t we all? The whole system is collapsing, sure money isn’t really the answer for anyone who faces the virus. But it does help with the comfort of sitting in.
  • I did live slightly beyond my means in this seven day period but overall it was all good, we were all adjusting. 

About the author:

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