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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 6 August, 2020
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Money Diaries: A retired lecturer in Galway documents life and spending in lockdown

This week, our reader has been cocooning throughout the Covid-19 shutdown.

TheJournal.ie reader

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

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 and any lifestyle changes 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 project manager in the north west on €43,000 who was planning for her first child and was used to working remotely. This week, a retired lecturer in Galway living through lockdown and missing her grandchildren. She describes her management of money during this time.

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I’m 79 years old. I live with my small dog Flora in a terraced house in Galway not far from the hospital. My daughter and two grandchildren (17 and almost 21) live fifteen minutes away by car. I have been cocooning since 15 March and I am only emerging now.

I have terrific young neighbours who have done all my shopping for me since lockdown began. In the beginning, I did some sensible online shopping – an extra phone charger, computer cable and phone adaptor – I also bought a cashmere sweater reduced to €100 euro from €200 euro and a drawing from an artist I know whose work I love, costing €200 euros. I do not regret this expenditure.

In normal times, I would have two students staying with me. They had the run of the house and they cooked for themselves. I earned €500 euros from each per calendar month. They didn’t need to pay for bills. I hope to have two German postgraduate students in September and the extra money helps a lot, paying for my holidays and the likes of treats for the kids.

My granddaughter is going to be 21 soon, and I want to give her €500 and a holiday later as her brother got a school skiing holiday totally against my better judgement (I feel it’s elitist in a way and offers no educational value) and it cost me €1000 euros.

I miss the students in the house. They have (nearly all) been lovely girls and when they are here I try and keep €1000 euros in my savings account for rainy days. At the moment there’s €600 in it. I’ve had one garden takeaway lunch with my sister, her daughter and grandkids since Covid-19 started, costing €50 euros.

I have permission from the gardai to visit my sister, who is a year and a half older than me and lives outside a village 25 kilometres from me and who had recently been unwell. I have been going to her house on Saturdays and back on Monday morning. She comes into me from time to time. Her house is immaculate, mine is not!

Occupation: Retired lecturer
Age: 79
Location: Galway city
Salary: €38,643 annual pension
Monthly pay (net): €1227.77 every two weeks, so €2455.54 monthly.

Monthly expenses

Transport: €40 for petrol, 
Household bills: €78 for ESB,  Oil €100 per month, Phone and Broadband €71.98
Phone bill: €35
Health insurance: €71.16 deal for three months (normally €195.11 per month)
Subscriptions: Netflix €7.99 (for my grandchildren), Irish Times (Saturday, delivered) €13.20 per month, Irish Times edition online, €5 per month.

***

Monday

7.30 am:  Wake up I look at my bank statement online because the first of the month is the day that I pay money into the credit union. Last year I consolidated my credit card debts and overdraft and credit union loan into one payment and this has been a great help. I am careful never to overdraw or let my credit card payment be late since then. The credit union has been my saviour since I started to work half a century ago.

8.00 am: My sister brings me coffee.

9.30 am: Get up and shower and cereal for breakfast.

10.30 am: I read in my sister’s big back garden. Detective novels by Gore Vidal written under pseudonym Edgar Box when he was blacklisted by The New York Times. I read for a while but it’s too hot outside so I go inside and read all day.

3.30 pm: I notice Irises I bought from the garden centre are completely dead. 

4.15 pm: I read TheJournal.ie and Times Ireland on the iPad.

5.00 pm: Yoga with Adriene. I’ve been doing this every day for the last few weeks.

6.00 pm:  I sit down and watch RTÉ news and have a ritual gin and tonic.

7.30 pm: Dinner is steak potatoes and salad.

9.30 pm: I watch a terrible version of Murder on the Orient Express with Kenneth Branagh.

11.45 pm: Bed and listen to BBC Radio 4 Sounds Miss Marple until I fall asleep.

                              Today’s total: €0.00

Tuesday

9.00 am: I order meat, eggs, potatoes and vegetables from an excellent local butcher, €29.98, as my sister is coming into town with me for a visit for a few days.

12.00 pm: Before I leave the house, I put on a lovely facemask made for me by a friend who lives on InisOir. I look at myself in the mirror and I look like a cowboy, so I do a gun thing with hand and say “stick ‘em up”.  Like the B films of my childhood – feels great.

12.30 pm: Collect the shopping and drive with my sister into Galway. We have a system – in her house, she buys and cooks everything, including wine and vice versa when we are at my house – though I’m in hers more, admittedly.

4.00 pm: The French green big coffee cups that I bought on eBay have arrived, €35.00

4.30 pm: My neighbour gives me lovely lettuce from his allotment at the top of my street – there are allotments with chickens and apple trees and fruit bushes.

5.00 pm:  Yoga with Adriene. A friend told me about her three months ago. I have done two rounds of 30 days Home Yoga always at 5 pm and though I can’t do a lot of it I’ve found it terrific for breathing and stretching. I yawn in the middle of it, which I take to be a good sign.  

5.55 pm: I make a small gin with large tonic, ice and lemon and drink it while I watch Six One news on RTÉ. The only news I watch daily. Sometimes, if I’m interested in Brexit or the Black Lives Matter movement in Minneapolis, I watch Channel 4 News at 7 pm.

6.45 pm: I peel potatoes as the sports news doesn’t require my full attention. 

7.30 pm: Make supper. Lamb cutlets, steamed potatoes, courgettes and salad.

8.30 pm: My sister watches Schitt’s Creek in the front room, and I clear up the kitchen. 

9.15.pm: My sister goes to bed and I wash the kitchen floor tiles. It’s a horrid job – why can’t we have the huge swirly mops that you get in Italy?

10.00 pm: With my heart pounding I watch the last two episodes of Normal People which I thought was a fantastic production. I much preferred it to the book (I realise this may be owing to the generation gap and my misspent youth too far away for a book to resonate).

11.30 pm: Put the dog out and have a cigarette.  

11.45 pm: Bed. Read a few emails and TheJournal.ie. Buy a three-month subscription to The New Yorker for €10.00. I like parcels as it feels like being back in boarding school.

12.30 am: Fall asleep to Miss Marple again, very soothing.

                   Today’s total: €74.98

Wednesday

7.30 am: Wake up to pleasant clatter of my builder neighbour having stuff delivered for his attic conversion. I have to bash the switch ten times to get the immersion on. It has been faulty since the beginning of lockdown, and I can’t ask for an electrician.

9.00 am: My sister tells me the internet is down. I brace myself to ring Eir about a total failure to respond to my telling them over a month ago that my (very expensive) broadband keeps going off. I can only get Eir because other companies have always said they will install it and then they find a blockage on the street.

9.30 am: After 15 minutes an extremely courteous representative (thank you Mohammed) helps me. He requests that a technician visit me urgently as I am a Vulnerable Person. I feel this is progress and thank him for his courtesy and efforts he has made on my behalf.

12.00 am: There’s a nasty smell in the fridge to investigate when my sister takes the dog for a walk.

12.30 pm: More masks from Inisoir arrive in the post.

1.00 pm: Investigate the fridge and clean it.

2.00 pm: Plant seeds. Try to follow instructions but the clay here is very bad as it used to be a quarry so in the end, I just dig a shadow ridge and scatter them, pour water on them while still allowed (though how Galway could ever be short of water is beyond me).

3.00 pm: My new e-cigarettes and battery arrive by courier, €32.80.

3.30 pm: My daughter visits me with cigarettes (I’ve started smoking about five a day since Covid-19 and will STOP when it’s over). She also brings a basin that she doesn’t use to conserve water. (I later discover that it leaks). I transfer €60.00 to my daughter’s account as her friend has sourced a 2nd-hand bike for my grandson. 

4.30 pm: My sister and I take the dog for a little walk to the next street where there is a green space and let her run around.

5.00 pm: Yoga time.

6.00 pm: Watch RTÉ news (gloomy) and drink my gin and tonic. 

7.30 pm: I make dinner. Pork chops with herbs and onions steamed potatoes cabbage, strawberries and cream and white wine.

8.00 pm: My grandchildren FaceTime me.

9.00 pm: Tidy the kitchen and start to watch National Theatre Live on YouTube, but it’s too shouty so we watch old Van der Valk on Talking Pictures. Apparently, Mick Jagger LOVES the Talking Pictures channel, or so they tell me.

9.30 pm: My sister goes to bed, and I watch the Mafia Only Kill in Summer on RTÉ 2, a terrific series and I try to follow the Italian, but it’s very fast.

11.30 pm: I let the dog out and have a cigarette at the gate.

11.45 pm: In bed and I read TheJournal.ie. Listen for five minutes to Miss Marple before I fall asleep.

                        Today’s total: €92.80

Thursday

8.00 am: Wake slightly hungover. My sister barely drinks and I’m inclined to have a few so must rein back.  

9.00 am: Sister walks to the hospital for a checkup. I have offered to take her, it’s five minutes away, but she wants to walk.

9.15 am: Have a coffee and go into a tiny garden to search for any of the three trowels used yesterday. I find two.

10.00 am: Transplant some lettuce and cress and put morning glory in a propagator. I re-pot chives for my sister, who is back from the hospital with the all-clear.

11.00 am: Shower and breakfast. Brown bread (homemade by me) and marmalade, also homemade, but not by me.

11.15 am: Eir technician rings to say he will be around in 10 minutes. Am amazed.

11.25 am: Leo from Eir arrives and is very helpful. He installs a new modem and we check the internet on my laptop. As he is about to leave I realise I will have problems since my Sky service and Nest app will need to be changed with the new password. Leo and I spend time trying to get Sky back. No joy.

12.30 pm: Sister retires for rest.

12.30 to 1.30 pm: I reset my main Sky box and then my mini box. Very pleased with myself. I have a cigarette. Car tax reminder arrives online. I decide to put off paying until the next paycheck.

3.00 pm: I do a little Italian study online. The course is on language, and I don’t enjoy it as much as my last course on language and culture which was free for an academic year including half-hour zoo conversation class with my tutor in Bologna. Excellent course.

4.00 pm: Walk down the canal with the dog to meet a friend who has been very sick.

5.00 pm: Time for yoga. I spend ages rebooting the Nest app and succeed with help from Google. 

6.00 pm: I watch the news. I make Normandy lamb for dinner with roast potatoes from leftover cooked ones.

7.00 pm: Watch Channel 4 news.

8.00 pm: Dinner.

9.00 pm: I start to watch Cardinal on the BBC but I’m too tired.

10.00 pm: Bed and fall asleep.

                    Today’s total: €00.00

Friday

10.00 am: Breakfast.

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11.00 am: Bring my sister to a garden centre and we queue for a short while and then I buy bird food herbs and some compost, €40.00.

12.00 pm: I bring the dog for a walk along the river opposite Menlo castle.  

2.30 pm: Home for lunch.

3.30 pm: I mean to study Italian but I sit in the front room and watch Cardinal and light the fire. A friend rings for a catch-up.

5.00 pm: Time for yoga. My neighbour brings my shopping – gin, wine and groceries as well as flowers, €41.62

6.00 pm: RTÉ news with a gin and tonic. They announce a change in the Covid-19 road map. I feel heartened. Children can visit and I can go to Dublin at the end of the month.

7.30 pm: I make burgers and potatoes dauphinoise for dinner.

8.30 pm: I watch a bad English sitcom.

9.00 pm: Kids Facetime me. All well.

10.00 pm: Bed and read my detective story. 

                            Today’s total:€81.62.

Saturday

9.00 am: Coffee and a cigarette. I read the Irish Times magazine.

11.00 am: Leave for my sister’s house and collect(free) iris to replace dead ones and buy lavender plants as presents. €11.00.

11.30 am: Quick dash local shop in the village. Pringles chocolate bread. 8. euros

12.00 pm: Read my sisters magazines.

3.30 pm: Drive to outskirts of the village to visit an old friend and a colleague who is getting married in a few weeks. We gossip about her (and my ex) work place She shows me dress she might wear pretty but flowery suggest plain blue would be lovely on her she is a very bonny woman. Her fiancee comes in from fishing (he puts them back)

We chat, I leave having given then an (alive) yellow iris. Get petrol kindling & the Daily Telegraph for my sister, €30.00.

5.00 pm: Yoga time.

6.00 pm: I watch the news with my G & T.

7.30 pm: My sister makes great hamburgers for supper.

8.30 pm: I watch an old three-hour-long Miss Marple. At midnight I take the dog out. She goes insane when she sees a cat. 

12.10 am: I am in bed asleep.

                                   Today’s total: €38.00

Sunday

7.15 am: My sister brings me coffee. I take the dog out. Home and read the Times Online in bed and listen to Sunday with John Bowman on RTÉ.

10.00 am: Ring friend who thinks there is a rat in her attic. Suggest she gets pest control in. 

10.30 am: Video call a younger friend who is an activist and has taught me a lot. 

11.00 am: Eat a huge breakfast back to bed to read my detective story. 

12.30 pm: I put on I Vitelloni on Mubi because I like Fellini films and to help my Italian, but after ten minutes my eyes are closing so I shut down my computer and listen to the radio and fall asleep. 

2.00 pm: My sister brings me coffee. Get up and shower.

3.30 pm: Go for a walk with my sister and the dog up towards the hills.

4.30 pm: Back from a walk. I mend a ceramic garden pot for my sister and stake up her roses and deadhead them. (I’m no gardener but compared to her I’m Monty Don).

4.50 pm: Open compute to do Italian for an hour but I’m not enjoying it. I go back online, search Course edX and find continuation again (free) of year’s course I finished in May in Italian Language and Culture. It runs from now till September. I’m delighted. Studying it every day puts shape on my day and it is very interesting material. Do it for three-quarters of an hour. It’s like meeting an old friend.

5. 45 pm: Yoga time.

6.00 pm: News time.

7.30 pm: Having dinner, roast chicken potatoes with salad.  

9.00 pm: I watch the first two episodes of a terrific series Walter presents on Channel 4 “Philharmonia” Mayhem in French orchestra. 

11.30 pm: Bed and read a detective novel until I fall asleep.

                                       Today’s total: €00.00

Weekly subtotal: €298.39

What I’ve learned:   

  • I know I’m no good with money so I pay everything I can on Direct Debit. I buy online via PayPal. I know exactly what I’ve been spending since lockdown as it had all been by card and I know I’ve had more expensive meat and more wine and gin than in normal times.

  • Extra things I’ve done like MUBI for euro a month for the first three months have been fantastic for me. As have free Italian classes online. Mostly I want to save to be able to help my grandchildren have some sort of summer so whatever is left in my current account by payday on Thursday I will put into my savings account for this purpose.

  • Normally I would go to the local credit union and put it in there, God Bless the Credit Union.

  • I also realise that my generation had an easier time as rents & mortgages were possible. Sad that life is so hard financially for the young today and that Ireland is a very unequal society. I know I am fortunate.

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