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Unum Income Protection Challenge feedback thread

(270 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 09-Jul-12 13:20:43

This thread is for the 50 or so families taking part in the Unum Challenge.
For more information on Unum please visit the Unum pages on Mumsnet.

The families taking part in this challenge have been asked to see how they can cope if one wage earner in the household had their income dropped down to the level they would be entitled to if they became unable to work due to illness or injury and were receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). We have a range of families taking part - those with only one income, those with 2 incomes, and a range of family sizes and income levels.

We'd like challengers to give feedback across the week. We'd like to see feedback at least 3 times (diary-style) plus a roundup of your thoughts at the end of the week.

The aim of the challenge is two fold:
~ to show how families cope with living on this amount - the challenges faced and to explore what families see as priority expenditure and what can be dropped. Those taking part also need to consider other resources they may have access to including savings, benefits, loans and family support. Obviously this varies from family to family so they will need to have a think about what would apply.

~ Unum say "above all we want you to think about how you and your family would cope if this was real life situation and it wasn't just for a week, but for a prolonged period of time. Does the challenge motivate you to put plans in place (if you don't already have plans)? Does it make you more likely to consider asking your employer about the sick pay policy and whether they offer Income Protection?"

Of course Unum know that every family is different and that circumstances will vary. They're asking folks to do this for a week just to get a snapshot of what their initial thoughts and actions are when faced with this challenge.

They want you to think about the following when adding your feedback...
~ What cost or expenses are easy to change and what's hard? What's impossible?
~ What sort of benefits do you currently get from the state / your employer?
~ What do you think you'd be entitled to (and when would they kick in) if this happened to you in real life?
~ What fixed costs do you have? Housing, childcare, utility bills - how would you cope with these in the short term and in the longer term if you had to live on SSP?
~ How are children affected by cutting costs? What do they think about the challenge?
~ What sort of family support do you think you could get?
~ Any other issues/ comments?

As a thank you for taking part there will be a prize draw of £100 of Amazon vouchers to 10 lucky challengers who add feedback as required

Thanks and good luck
MNHQ

gazzalw Wed 11-Jul-12 18:04:57

By the way DW is being quite frugal with meals but she always is. Tends to use all leftovers before making new meals.

She did buy two cards and realised that she could have got one for free if she'd used her £1 M&S voucher she has in her purse (and she forgot to get her two stamps on her M&S cards loyalty card). She has been using her extra points vouchers in Sainsbury's though! But of course that is off-setting against future purchases. She did say that she could have bought the food thus far this week with her Nectar points but prefers to save those for Christmas or something non-foody. Also has quite a lot of Boots points (over £25 worth) if she gets desperate but won't use those unless necessary especially given that Boots is expensive.

The main issue so far is that a lot of extraneous household expenses are not totally essential but are related to the children and their schooling etc...and to my mind these are not easy to cut back on. I don't think DW is at all OTT with the joint account expenditure but there is a constant stream of things to buy/give money for with children at home. Similarly if it was just me and DW we would eat porridge or Dhal and rice if we ran out of money but wouldn't dream of restricting the children's diet like that!

aristocat Wed 11-Jul-12 18:09:33

day 3, I have spent £5 on fresh flowers. It is MILs birthday today and her card and present/s have been purchased weeks ago however we did stop after school to get her 2 bunches of fresh flowers (which were much appreciated)
Packed lunches for DH and DCs today.

Hoping to stay within the £85 budget but I must admit that it is not as easy as I thought it would be hmm

I always meet up with a best friend on a Wednesday evening and we go out to a local pub/restaurant. I will spend £8-10 this evening on myself - we have a meal and a few drinks .......

My total spend so far is £13.50 (must add on pub £££ from tonight later!)

antonchigurwouldliketomeetyou Wed 11-Jul-12 18:32:11

This is proving harder than I expected. Much harder.

I am used to working to a very tight budget, tighter at some times than others, but I am having one of these weeks where lots of little expenses seem to add up. That's even without any bills being due. Even though it isn't real, it is wearing. Wanted to get a present for a colleague who helped me out during my maternity leave, was actually relieved she is off til next week. Of course if this wasn't a one week problem I would be almost dreading having to deal with it.

Haven't totted up all the spending... yet.

duchesse Wed 11-Jul-12 19:17:45

Since the challenge is this week, I'm going to have to be utterly truthful.

I have failed miserably already. There are 7 of us in the house (6 from our family, plus one visiting language student). In addition we have had a 4 day visit from a friend and two of her children. Tomorrow another friend and her teenage son will arrive.

Today I spent a smidge over £100 on food shopping alone. We had no bread, no milk, no fruit, little meat left in the house. I bought everything the way I usually do, on offer, reduced, on offer + reduced. Normally my food bill is about £90/week. This week, when the vegetables come I will have spent £125, which probably quite neatly corresponds to the extra cost of our house guests.

Normally (ie in term-time), there are only DH and me, our two teenage daughters and our toddler at home. 19 yo DS is usually away at university and we don't usually always have foreign students.

My observations are the following:

If we really had to live on £85 a week, I would not have been able to buy most of the fruit we got today. That would have saved over £20 but our diet would inevitably have suffered.
My teenaged DS would probably not be able to come back when he wanted during the holidays and therefore would not really be able to call this place home any more.
Our diet would be a lot poorer and to be frank we would almost certainly not be able to eat to our hunger which would be a good thing in my case.
We would not be able to afford treats of any kind (we already can't now on a normal income though).
We would have to think very carefully about the car situation and whether or not we could afford to keep driving either of them. We live in the countryside so that is not a prospect to be relished especially in the rain and flooding we've been having.
There is no chance of us ever being able to run the CH on £85/week. We can't really afford it now so a massive drop in income wouldn't help that.

Bottom line, living on this amount of money could only ever be a temporary measure. We simply could not afford to feed our children on the money and have anything left over for socks even. Our older children would not be able to stay at school beyond the age of 16 (DD1 is at college) and we would have to seriously consider whether it would be possible to keep having them/her living at home. DD1 is 17 but she's so definitely not ready to leave home yet. It would catapult her prematurely into adulthood and make it very difficult for her to achieve her ambition, which is to go to medical school.

The very real possibility of illness basically breaking up our family unit is heart-breaking tbh.

Now to answer your questions direclty:

What cost or expenses are easy to change and what's hard? What's impossible?
Very difficult to alter the food bill for a family of 6/7 much

What sort of benefits do you currently get from the state / your employer?
I'm self employed so zippo-zilch afaik. DH is a public servant so decent package.

What do you think you'd be entitled to (and when would they kick in) if this happened to you in real life?
Can't imagine much assistance to us in our situation. We would continue to get the CB that we currently get which is a non-negligeable amount of money for us for 3 children.

What fixed costs do you have? Housing, childcare, utility bills - how would you cope with these in the short term and in the longer term if you had to live on SSP?
Basically couldn't.

How are children affected by cutting costs? What do they think about the challenge?

As I said above it hasn't really been possible in the circumstances to cut costs any further due to visits from guests etc- can't very well feed them gruel all week! They would definitely suffer if no fresh fruit etc in the house. They're already well used to the concept of treats being a hen's teeth rarity so no high expectations there.

What sort of family support do you think you could get?
DH mother would probably help, can't expect anything from mine although one of my sisters is very-off.

Any other issues/ comments?
Please see above.

Today I forgot about the challenge and allowed dd to buy a book at the school book fair. That is another £4.99 of unnecessary spending...

Total now £20.04.

But don't forget, I did a large shop before the challenge so we are living off that, food wise. However, the cupboards are running bare and a shop will need to be done over the weekend. I just know I will fail miserably. Will try not to though!

MunumMunum Wed 11-Jul-12 19:59:02

Total sent today: £31.50
Total spent this week: £56.85

Today was hard. I could have really done with the convenience of nipping into a local cafe with the kids for lunch. Instead we got drenched 3 times getting into and out of the car, to go home to make sandwiches.

I spent £1.50 on a playgroup at our local church. We had breakfast for that price though. I spent another £15 on petrol and put £10 on DH's oyster card. I was reminded about a friends leaving collection and put in £5 for that. I hate feeling like a cheapskate. sad

This exercise has made me much more aware of every penny spent. I was pondering what would happen to us if DH lost his job. We already try to save as much as possible but imagining how things would be has made me resolve to be even more careful.

Cremolafoam Wed 11-Jul-12 20:03:32

So Day 3:
Had to buy a book of stamps today even tho i only need onesad at the garage as the queue for the PO was 100 miles long.
Have managed to spend so far:

£65 Monday
£11.25 Tuesday
£3.60 Wednesday

This effectively leaves £6.00 for the rest of the week if we were doing this for real.

I checked my contract today and after my 6 years if service I would get full pay for 6 months and 1/2 pay for 6 months.Dh has a similar arrangement. Hooray for public service.smile
We also have mortgage insurance and an offset mortgage which means there are some overpayments which provide a slush fund( enough to pay the mortgage for 2 months dh says)
Dd back from grans tomorrow so am preparing to be eaten out if house and home.wink

Know at this stage that living on ssp would NOT be possible for us or the way we live now. Life would change completely.
What I do not know is how much I would get in benefits if any. In my employment contract it says:
Sick pay:
This scheme is intended to supplement Statutory Sick Pay and Incapacity Benefit so as to maintain normal pay during defined periods of absence on account of sickness, disease, accident or assault.

Perhaps after the OSP lapses I would be entitled to some IB.Scarily, you never know what this might be until it happenshmm

No matter what we always feel squeezed and I often wonder why we work so bloody hard without very much to show for it. The cost of living is really high. Everyone I know feels similarly. My mum never worked and finds it difficult to understand how I have to work do had to have nowhere near the lifestyle she had at my age. Are we the first generation to be poorer than our parents?

jimswifein1964 Wed 11-Jul-12 20:04:43

Today, the kids ate out as we didn't have time between school and after-school things, & they didnt want a picnic in thunder grin, so that was £6.38.

Total = £80.93. dh too his own breakfast to work, and I assume spent the usual 2.20 on lunch, but I need to check that.

gazzalw Wed 11-Jul-12 20:30:26

Hi reason for two posts so close together is that our internet server was down for 48 hours so I wrote the above post and then cut and pasted it here when we were restored to technology. So the above post is Monday's views and this one is an update including comments on questions.

~ What cost or expenses are easy to change and what's hard? What's impossible?

Funnily it is some of food/drink related treats that are probably the easiest expenditures to knock on the head. It is already becoming evident that my habitual tendency to stop off for a swift drink en route home is a luxury and needs cutting down for health and financial benefits - but having been on the Tube for 2 hours feel in need of refreshment! Yes, things like drinks and coffees out....it may only be £2.00 or less for a coffee but that adds up during the week. Things like incidental ice-creams in the park after school at £2 a throw are a definite no! Mind you they usually are as DW is quite strict about things like that!

It is hard to budget for all the school related expenditures that are often asked for with little notice and little turn-around time. The schools do say that if you can't afford to pay for trips etc...to go to see the Head but we would be too proud to do that and anyway I think the Head would assume we were trying to pull a fast one! DW did have the option not to give DS the £1 voluntary donation for his school disco but it's just not on and would you really begrudge him going for the sake of £1.00 (in which case DCs would soon start a mutiny!).

It is impossible to cut any more corners on food really. DW only buys very limited branded goods (where she personally feels there's a noticeable quality issue - for example Heinz Baked Beans and Fairy Washing Up Liquid) and the rest tend to be own brands. Every so often she does have a bit of a "I'm fed up with scrimping and saving on every last item" moment and will buy something she considers to be 'extravagant" but not often. She does try to buy more veggies than fruit to fulfil our five a day quotient but DS only eats a couple of different veggies so that is not always easy to achieve. Also, we have an impossibly fussy, pedigree puss who will only eat quality wet catfood so she generally has a more expensive diet than we humans!

~ What sort of benefits do you currently get from the state / your employer?

Well we get child benefit but nothing else. Work provides better than SSP I do believe although I have never been off sick for more than four days in succession so it's never been an issue. No other health benefits though.

~ What do you think you'd be entitled to (and when would they kick in) if this happened to you in real life?

Not sure but as I've queried up above possibly we might get free prescriptions/dental treatment and possibly some extra funding for the children?

~ What fixed costs do you have? Housing, childcare, utility bills - how would you cope with these in the short term and in the longer term if you had to live on SSP?

Our commitments in terms of fixed costs amount to over £1400 per month and there's very little flex unless we start cutting out boiler cover, pet insurance, mortgage protection insurance (maybe it's not worth having?). Thankfully don't have childcare costs as DW is a SAHM but of course things would probably change if I was on long-term sick pay.

It would be impossible to cope long-term but then as I said I think I get much better than SSP through my employer so hopefully we wouldn't be quite reduced to living on £85 a week. Obviously if I did only qualify for SSP then we'd be royally stuffed and would be in the red from the off.... It certainly wouldn't be a comfortable position to be in for more than a couple of weeks, even with some savings to fall back on.

~ How are children affected by cutting costs? What do they think about the challenge?

I think the children just think the 'hole in the wall' is a bottomless money pit and although I don't think they are spoiled they do rather seem to think that if the want a treat they stand a good chance of getting it! So this challenge is good in educating them about the value of money, prioritising expenditure and living as frugally as some families have to do permanently.

As I said in earlier post, this week we have free activities organised for the whole weekend so the challenge won't directly impact on them unless they start wanting ice-creams when we're out (which they're unlikely to get unless we are still in credit by this stage which is unlikely!)

~ What sort of family support do you think you could get?

Families are not forward in handing over any financial help currently and would be extremely reluctant to ask even though DW's parents are really quite comfortably off - don't think they'd offer either!

~ Any other issues/ comments?

It would be interesting to know what percentage of the workforce in the UK would only be entitled to SSP if off sick for more than four days in succession?

trickquestion Wed 11-Jul-12 20:48:45

£12.65 spent today. DH spent a whopping £2. 40 on a jar of peanut butter (Suma organic). When I queried it he said the other (99p) stuff is 'shit'. I think he lost sight of the fact that if you have £85 a week to live on you don 't have a choice but to eat the (shit) stuff which i like better anyway

didn't buy much again - bread and milk.

I think reflecting on this week so far I have realised that I find it fairly easy to cut back on groceries. It's what we do the times my (big business) clients are late paying me. But we do get that money in. And it can be used to pay for kids activities and larger items of expenditure. To live on limited groceries and being unable to spend on activities all the time would be beyond depressing. I don't mind forgoing a cappuccino once in a while as I need the cash, but to never be able to afford one would be tiring.

I shop very differently for groceries on the weeks we don't have much spare cash as well. Very carefully. When I've been paid I pretty much buy whatever takes my fancy food wise.

<sigh> And it was all going so well...
I had only spent £42 so far this week. Not bad compared to normal. Flippin car got a puncture. Garage call out and replacing the tyre cost £55, so that's my budget buggered. The extra will have to come out of my small amount of savings. I hope nothing else falls over this week.

Jasper1980 Wed 11-Jul-12 21:08:19

Nice weather made our day a lot easier. We did spend a couple of pounds on icecream for the kids, but that is all we spent today. It is really tough though. If something came up, you just wouldnt be able to afford it. My car needed work done just last week, that cost more than this weeks entire budget. So we are down to £23.70 for the next four days. We had dinner with a relative tonight which was free. Oh! I just remembered we bought biscuits for friend coming over for coffee this monringblush. Things like that we just take for normal. That makes my left over budget actually £21. Oh dear....

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 11-Jul-12 23:25:14

You guys are all doing so well....very interesting feedback and we look forward to reading the rest of it through the next part of the week. Thanks so much.

aristocat Wed 11-Jul-12 23:31:34

total spend now is £24.70

DD having a school dinner tomorrow which is £2 and my spending this evening was £9.20 ...... ooops

121 Wed 11-Jul-12 23:35:42

Isn't this the same " challenge" as a few days ago? Were the responses really all that unusable?

Wasn't it made pretty clear there that it was meaningless to the point of being massively disengenuous?

R2PeePoo Thu 12-Jul-12 00:00:05

Day 3 and we still haven't spent anything more than a few ££. This is an unusual week because I am unwell and DH staying at home looking after the DC. Running out of stuff so DH will probably do a supermarket shop tomorrow. I'd probably have spent £10-20 by this point in a normal week whilst out and about with DS.

jimswifein1964 Thu 12-Jul-12 07:28:37

121, err yes - that was the thread asking for participants. This is the thread for the chosen participants to report back. And yes, we know you cant just drop your commitments, and we know many people live on minimal income anyway. This is just an exercise to make people think...

gazzalw Thu 12-Jul-12 07:39:01

Well I think all of you who have just spent 'peanuts' should give yourselves a big pat on the back as we are getting perilously close to our limit and it's only Thursday morning....

DW had made an overdue appt for me for the dentist for yesterday, so far from thinking I might end the week quids in, I used £18.00 having my teeth cleaned. Hmmm. That leaves me with £9.00 to last for the rest of the week, having incautiously spent £8.00 in my 'local' sheltering from the torrential rain the other day. But for the fact that I had an aching tooth which I wanted looked at I would have postponed the appointment but felt it a necessity to be quite honest.

DW has definitely been watching the pennies making a conscious effort not to hit the shops unless there is something that is desperately needed but she has just discovered another M&S Sale starts today so not entirely sure she's going to be able to resist. By the way, she felt vindicated buying the school jumper for DD on Monday as there were, as predicted, no logoed ones in the second hand uniform sale. Of course as she reasonably pointed out she should have actually waited for the uniform sale before committing herself to spending £7.20 on a brand new one. I guess that is a lesson one would soon learn if living off SSP for more than a week.

So as land lies at the moment DW has £22.00 left to spend and I have £9.00 and it's Thursdayl But we are running out of fruit and lunchbox stuff again.... although DW has found lots of frozen pastry so considering making giant plaited cheese straws for lunchboxes tomorrow!

Jasper1980 Thu 12-Jul-12 08:58:06

Well since the weather is holding up today, we are going for a walk and picnic along the canal. Picnic will consist of food we already have, so fruit and rolls. Although we did need to buy rolls so that's £1 down. We are also going to have a BBQ this evening, and are spending £1.75 on a disposable BBQ. We already have burgers and sausages in the freezer so we are down to £18.25. I doubt we will spend anymore today. But will report back later if we do.

Kids are taking it all fine I have to say. We did have a bit of a meltdown in the Disney store over a Lotso, but that would have happened either way grin. I have managed to bake up simple treats and cakes with store cupboard ingredients for them.

herethereeverywhere Thu 12-Jul-12 12:04:18

Well today really was not a good day budget wise. Trip to the gps has included prescription charges which although I imagine I wouldn't pay if I was off sick even getting them reimbursed means money gone for a short time. Also got credit card bill and needed some bits from the shops. Last week when I did this I managed to get to the end of the week with a fiver left over from my £85. This week it's Thursday and I only have £20 left sad

herethereeverywhere Thu 12-Jul-12 12:06:27

Also have realised that this challenge would be a lot harder if my DS was older. As he is 5 months I can entertain him myself quite easily but if he was a toddler or older and wanted to do more I could see that being a lot more difficult.

aristocat Thu 12-Jul-12 12:21:50

Needed some groceries today and have spent £20.07 in total on toilet roll, ham, chicken, WUL, flour, cat food, bread and crusty cobs, chocolate chips and greaseproof paper and a few other items.
We are having DDs best friend over after school and I have promised DD that they can bake cookies ..... obviously much easier (and cheaper) to buy them as the chocolate chips alone cost £1.60!!! but not as much fun smile

Total spend so far £44.77

One of the hardest things for me is not to look at the M&S and Clarks sale because I know I would be tempted to buy something.

SpottySlippers Thu 12-Jul-12 12:22:46

Days 3 and 4...........

Yesterday I did not spend anything, however, I did succumb to the Joules sale today when they were offering a further 20% off. Bought a few bits for the children and a rugby shirt for DH's birthday (£70 reduced to £20). I always ebay what I can when the children have grown out of it hence I often recoup a fair bit (£50 extra income this month). Unfortunately this has meant that I have spent over £85 this week.

This challenge is difficult for us, we do live cheaply (aside from my occasional Joules sale shop blush), we are careful with our supermarket shopping, DH continues to cycle to work, we rarely pay for days out, soft play etc instead we go to the park, library, walking in the woods etc. So cutting our spend much more is virtually impossible; this challenge has motivated me to check we are getting the best deal on our utilities etc, in the majority of cases we are.

aharan Thu 12-Jul-12 12:24:48

Ok. £85 for a week. its going to take me a while to get used to this. but i am trying hard. both me and my husband are quite concious about where and what we spend. my daughter, who will be turning 3 soon, doesnt really have much say (just until now) in where and what we spend. so, even if i buy her a lolly, or do some craft with her at home - she is more than happy. she doesnt expect me to take her to an indoor play area or a farm every other week.
that said, the start of this week has been great. i spent £20 on fruit, veg, milk and other grocery at the beginning of the week. I plan to go to ASDA tonite for some extras, but dont plan to spend more than £20 there. both of us take the public transport, and are not that far away from our work place. so about £20 on the transport this week. also, i work three days a week from office and one day form home - so save on travelling etc.
but i will wait to see how i manage to finish the week off.

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