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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

Cremolafoam Tue 10-Jul-12 20:16:58

Day 2 in The Big Spenders House :

Have spent £11.25 today. I bought a Boots Meal Deal and a coffee and
A packet of purple Dylon as dd wants to dye some t shirts.grin

We are eating our own spuds for dinner with some sausages and beans.
Exciting!
What cost or expenses are easy to change and what's hard? What's impossible?
We pretty much cut out treats years ago as dd is getting older.
And I have always shopped for bargains and offers. However if we had to we could cancel dds driving lessons , get rid of one car and forget about going on holiday.

~ What sort of benefits do you currently get from the state / your employer?
Child benefit ( £134 pm)and orphans allowance ( about £8pm)
Our tax credits have just been cut
Dd is not eligible for EMA

~ What do you think you'd be entitled to (and when would they kick in) if this happened to you in real life?
Fortunately I am eligible for OSP and have a very good work contract which offers phased return to work and occupational health support to enable this. I'm very lucky. I have 6 years service with the organisation and it is one if the reasons I am still there.
However if I had to give up work we would really struggle

~ 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?

Mortgage: dh pays £ a lot
Rates: dh pays £100 pm
Heating oil : I pay £100 pm
Electicity : dh pays £175 pm
Broadband + home phone : dh pays£ 30 pm
iPhone : dh pays £30 pm
Dds phone : I pay but its capped at £7.50pm
Food : 1/2 each pay £250 pm
Clothes and sundry : I pay £ 30-40
Dd music lessons : I pay £80 pm
Dd driving lessons: I pay £ 25 per lessonshock
Tv license : I pay £ 15 pm
Car insurance and tax: each pay for own £ 25pm + £22
My car loan and petrol : I pay £ 200
Treats like takeout food / pub/ concerts both pay £50 pm
Long term savings: I pay into when I can( never)
Dd babysits for cash although we top up for nights out etc
Holidays: well we cobble together what we can choosing cheapo flights and hope for the best. Tend to get a flight when it's really cheap then book accomodation a bit at a time and try and avoid any scary payments.

If I couldn't pay the bits above that I do pay for now I'd be isolated ( live in countryside with no buses) we'd have to give up the mobiles and I'm pretty sure we'd struggle to heat the house.sad

~ How are children affected by cutting costs? What do they think about the challenge?
Dd thinks its hard and knows if I wasn't able to work there would be no driving lessons or violin lessons or school trip next year.. Bless her she spent a day last week thinking up a business plan for herself and a friend to make some money over the summer. ( could b q lucrative) lol

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

As stated previously work would be quite good in supporting me get back to work ASAP. Family help would be limited as I also help out my elderly parents and in laws. As q a few people rely on me it could be very difficult and have a negative effect on the family circle.
Finance wise it would be pretty dire. Sister wealthy but lives abroad do no practical help but might be able to borrow money from her ( hate hate the idea of asking )

~ Any other issues/
Had to get a root filling and crown last week a
And it cost £ 400. What on earth would I have done about that on £85 per week.???

MunumMunum Tue 10-Jul-12 20:32:49

Total spent today: £20.50
Total spent this week: £25.35

DH took leftovers into work today and used his Oyster to travel in. No expense from him. I made sandwiches from cupboard ingredients. I needed to get a loaf of bread though and some fresh fruit for the kids. Already my choices are changing. I try to buy seasonal where possible but do enjoy cherries which can be expensive. Instead I purchased the cheaper apples and a smaller hand of bananas. DS was not impressed! I usually pick up the bulk bargains as and when they arise at our local co-op. Today they had 48 dishwasher tabs for £5 instead of £11. I picked up 4 boxes before remembering that I was on this challenge. So longer term it is going to cost me more because I cannot make useful purchases when things are so tight.

We went to a local group in the afternoon which ask for a donation of £1. They provide squash, fresh fruit and biscuits. I have seen others occasionally not pay and never understood it but today I realised why that £1 could make a difference.

After group we went home to play in the garden. I had to stop and put some air in my tyre which was another 50p. It is this type of incidental that makes budgeting hard. I got home to find a reminder from Ebay to pay for some tops I won for DS. This was another £5 that I hadn’t considered.

So far I am struggling on this budget. We are only day 2 and I have spent almost a third of the money on incidentals only. And I haven’t even been shopping, filled the car up or topped up DHs Oyster. sad

Having thought through our expenses I think I could save roughly £50 a week from our existing expense of around £350. This would be in the form of no gym membership and no sky tv. I could cut back slightly on our shopping expenses perhaps saving a further £10-15. I would not enjoy doing so however as the little luxuries make a big difference.
The expenses that are harder to cut would be gas, electric, water etc. These are fixed rate and we shop about for the better deals. We have a mortgage which could be changed to interest only.

DH gets an excellent sick package from his employer. I believe he is entitled to full sick pay for 6 months then onto half pay for another 6 months. After this he would only get the SSP. His company do a lot though in terms of occupational health services and ensuring that the employees are well. He also gets private health insurance for the family which covers alternative therapies and dental. He also gets Critical Illness cover and Life Insurance. I have a separate policy for both of these in addition to his spousal coverage.

We do not receive any state benefits other than child benefit.

If DH became sick I would anticipate him getting better within a year. If he developed a critical illness then we have insurance for this also. I would imagine we wouldn’t need to claim any state support.

If we had to live on SSP short term I think we would cope. Our lifestyle would be different but we would make do. If we had to live on this longer term it would be a struggle. We live in the South-East of London and it is expensive to live here. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to live here on a total of £85 a week.

Our children are too young to appreciate the financial changes. The impact to DD would be a reduction in the amount of extra-curricular activities. At this age though (4) she would adapt. DS is not quite 2 and just gets on with it!

My parents are feckless with money. Interestingly I am no longer in contact with them in part due to several large arguments, about money, we have had over the years. I imagine my PIL would be generous and offer us assistance. They would not see us struggle. Writing this down I realise exactly how lucky we currently are.

llynnnn Tue 10-Jul-12 20:50:00

What cost or expenses are easy to change and what's hard? What's impossible?
We have soooo many direct debits going out each month that we are unable to cancel at short notice (phone contracts/home and car insurance) we could cut back on food expenses easily I think, we seem to spend quite a bit each week on more luxury food and drinks (chocolate, wine, fresh meat etc)

~ What sort of benefits do you currently get from the state / your employer?
The only state benefit we receive at the moment is child benefit our employer (we both work for the same company) pay 8 weeks of full pay then 8 weeks of half pay before ssp starts

~ What do you think you'd be entitled to (and when would they kick in) if this happened to you in real life?
I'm not sure we would be entitled to anything much at all. My dh was in this situation in 2010 and we weren't entitled to claim anything until he'd been off work for 6 months iirc
~ 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?
We have so many fixed costs, mortgage, council tax, phone tv and mobiles, loan and childcare come to approx £1300 per month. In the short term we do have a couple of months savings to pay for these, in the long term i really dont know how we would cope. If dh was on ssp we would love £300 per week which in essence is all these bills

~ How are children affected by cutting costs? What do they think about the challenge?
One of the first things we would have to cut is my daughters dancing and swimming lessons which total £12 per week, they would be devasted by this and I would hate to do that to them. They are only 5 and 3 so dont really understand money and how it is limited (although we are trying to teach them this with pocket money and chores) so they wouldnt understand why all of a sudden they had to stop doing things they enjoyed and having much less treats.

~ What sort of family support do you think you could get?
My family are very good at healping with childcare at the moment and I'm sure if we needed a loan they would do their best to help, but their funds are also limited!

~ Any other issues/ comments?
It is day 2 now and I had to buy my eldest daughter a birthday present today. she has been asking for a moshi monster house for months and in our local toy store it is £16, after a money saving search online I found it for £10 delivered. I would have to get used to searching for things like this or just saying no to them if we were in this situation.
I also did my weekly food shop in Aldi yesterday and managed to get the shopping for £40 for the week instead of my normal £70ish in Tesco (although was being careful and only bought enough for the week and do have quite a bit in the cupboards/freezer already) Several items much much cheaper though!

KittieCat Tue 10-Jul-12 21:13:39

Day two...

I forgot my lunch today so had to buy a sandwich. Normally I'd not really think too much about what I spend at lunchtime but today I did, and had an egg and cress sandwich. Silly really as it was really nice and only cost £1.50 whereas I'd usually spend about £5 without thinking.

This is all I've spent today. All good BUT I've been desperate to catch up with my best pal... and it works for both of us to get together tomorrow. I'm going to have to watch what I spend.

DS went to music today which was £5. Again, not something I'd think twice about but we'd have to seriously consider if we could afford this, swimming and sing & sign. Sadly I think we'd have to stop at least some of his activities, which would be a real shame.

I've realised we definitely need to work harder to save up in case anything unforeseen happened to either of us. We both work pt so existing on one wage and £85 a week would be a real stretch. Much harder than I thought it would be.

There are areas we can cut back on but, sadly, many more we can't. My parents would help us out but it would have to be an absolute last resort as they've retired and their money should be their own.

I've got just £63.50 left and it's only Tuesday evening. I'm going out tomorrow night and taking DS swimming in the afternoon. I'm going to have to reign it in although I've not been spending willy nilly thus far. .

Day two - We had run out of bread and bananas so off to the local co-op I trotted (walked to nearest local shop so as to save fuel) and spend £2.57.

Dd had a friend for tea and asked if they could buy ice creams at the co-op. I said no (keeping my tight budget in mind) and instead offered them icepops from the multi pack I had in my freezer.

So total spend to date £12.57.

Am in a (theoretical) panic about what I would do about the phonebill which is due the end of the month. Can only assume that if I were permanently on this budget I would not make calls so freely / restrict internet time even more than I already do...

Oh, I forgot - I played badminton tonight with the girls from work. We share the cost of the court, my share was £1.50 tonight. I have to add it to my total.
So total spend is now £14.07

Scary how quickly it all adds up.

Jasper1980 Tue 10-Jul-12 21:59:23

I forgot this question

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

We can't change petrol costs, we have to travel for various reasons. Although if dp lost her job, well, we could live with a lot less fuel. The martial arts would stop, but it would be a hard change for DS as he loves it. We already eat pretty budget food already, I home make a lot. We don't really have any outgoings that could change...sky could go, I could live without that. I'd also walk more to things rather than take my car, which would actually be gone to, so I guess I would walk anywaygrin

Well it's Tuesday and we had £25 left. We spent some money on fruit and teabags, so are down to £20 to last the rest of the week. It's going to be hard It would be a lot easier of DS was still in school.

trickquestion Tue 10-Jul-12 22:04:29

Re the questions: I could make cuts to our spending, have no mortgage or rent but have monthly bills, utility, insurance, car, TV license etc. I guess if I was not working we could get rid of the car, it'd be a big sacrifice though.
We receive Child Tax credit and Child Benefit. Have no idea what I am entitled to from work as I have always assumed it is six months on full pay. I seldom take time off work ill and have never been off for a prolonged period so I have been totally turning a blind eye to the reality that long-term illness or disability could happen to me. Having said that we do have critical illness cover. I'm going to phone HR tomorrow to find out the details of sick pay.

My children are at school this week and are not really affected by the challenge, maybe it'll have more impact come the weekend.

We have about two month's salary in savings, I suppose we could move to a smaller house etc. My parents would probably help out, but not sure this could be sustained long term

aristocat Tue 10-Jul-12 22:08:47

day 2, we needed bread and fresh fruit today.

My spend was £5.50 at Lidl. Normally I would just go to Sainsburys and spend £20 + on more expensive fruit such as grapes and cherries wheras today I purchased bananas and apples. I also bought garlic bread, white cabbage and mushrooms, definitely much cheaper at Lidl and I was quite amazed that my few groceries were only £5.50.

I forgot that yesterday DCs have swimming lessons but these are paid for in 16 week blocks and not weekly. The payment works out to approx £4.50/week.

Total spend so far .... £8.50

Hopezibah Tue 10-Jul-12 22:24:44

Day 2 of the challenge. We were stuck at home all day as the local paper interviewed and photographed my son over some of his recent acheivements. I've been trying to stretch out last weeks grocery shop but am running low on supplies so had to send hubby out to get a top up shop to keep us going. He spent £14.59 on eggs, milk, bread, a bit of fruit and the luxuries in there were 2 x value chocolate at 30p each and two for £3 offer on own brand magnum type ice cream - so those are the items we would be going without had I done that bit of shopping! Dinner was jacket potatoes, plus a bit of salad, beans and tuna, i would guess totalling around £4.00 to feed 2 kids and 2 adults. Total spend this week so far around £25 I think. Two days in - All of a sudden, the challenge doesn't seem so easy. I did get to quiz my husband on what would happen if he was unable to work and i was quite impressed that he did know. 6 months on full pay, then 6 months on half pay for sickness or injury. If made redundant it would be a weeks pay for each years service so 5 weeks pay. Altohugh it doesn't sound too bad, either way, it would certainly be a worry long term as it is all too easy to be spending money!

The other thing that happened today, is that we received a letter from one of our sponsored children (we sponsor 4 children in some of the worlds poorest countries) and I would really hope that is something that we would not give up if we had to manage on £85 a week. It costs £21 a month to sponsor 1 child which works out at 70p a day. Given how little I could buy here for 70p, I would rather the money goes to feeding, clothing, educating and providing healthcare to a child who REALLY needs it. With 21,000 under 5's dying each day from poverty - I want to make sure that the children we sponsor do not become one of them and until i got to the point of not being able to provide a meal for my own kids then i hope that would remain one of our spending priorities.

Cremolafoam Tue 10-Jul-12 23:37:10

I will not look at the Boden sale
I will not look at the Boden sale
I will not look at the Boden sale
I will not look at the Boden sale
grin

£33.70 so far
Today DS will let himself in after school, DD has drumming (£4) and school dinners come to £3.60 together.
DH and DD went out for cake & coffee while DS was at his scout party and that came to £6.05, so our total is up to £47.35 already without a food shopblush. We tend to food shop on a Thursday.
Our fixed outgoings are low compared to others on here, DH's phone is paid by work, I don't have one, we have freeview and one car between us.
Council tax £70 PCM
Tv license £12.12 PCM
Gas & Electricity £42.45 PCM (but FiT pays us £58 PCM on average)
Broadband £15 PCM
Insurances £25 PCM
Total £106 PCM
We spend about £250 PCM on food, but could squeeze that if necessary, and we would stop putting money into savings (and start spending it).
We are very unlikely to be in the position where our household income is this low, but if we had to, it would be the DCs who bore the brunt of cuts, as our outgoings seem to be largely on them.
Without their after school clubs, this week's spend would have been £28 less shock

jimswifein1964 Wed 11-Jul-12 07:01:03

spent £4,55 on reducedstuff in tescos last night. So my running total is 74.55 , its only Wednesday, and we have to eat in a cafe tonight as no time to come home then back out for an event,& its too wet for a picnic.

cremola I looked at the Boden sale... I filled my basket up with nearly £60 worth of items for dd and ds. Then I remembered the challange. Then I tried to reason with myself that these were sale items and therefore bargains...
Then I came to my senses and emptied the basket. Gah!

Jasper1980 Wed 11-Jul-12 08:30:16

Day three: thankfully I have no interested in the boden salegrin
Today is a free day for us. Friend coming round for coffee this morning, lunch will be things we already have and going to a family members for tea. So bar fuel costs, which is already paid for on Monday, we shan't be spending a penny. We will take the kids to a local park if the rain stays off and I will go for a walk for excercise. No gym needed.

We are lucky in some ways this week as the kids usual clubs are on holiday. We would have had to have paid £7.40 fro swimming lessons and £6 for marital arts. If we had to pay that put this week we would have almost run out of cash already.

Merrylegs Wed 11-Jul-12 08:40:31

Late to this as have been v busy and hence rather disorganised- and realised that being disorganised means I spend more. Eg Nephew's birthday on Sat - forgot, so sent a tenner in an envelope on Monday.

Spent £100 in Sainsbury's on Friday (before challenge!) but had houseguests over weekend and had to feed nine people over four meals so no food left.

At work all day Monday and the local shop is a small Co-op which is convenient but more expensive as I can only buy what I can carry, so smaller milk, juice etc to tide us over. Spent a tenner and will try and make it last with store cupboard stuff until Friday (family of 5 - incl 2 teenage boys. They eat A LOT).

I am self-employed so if I don't work I don't get paid. DH would get 6 months full pay, 6 months half pay before having to go on SSP, so if the worst happened, in theory I would have 6 months to a year to get a full time well paid job.

We have some savings and a low mortgage, but are paying school fees so would have to change schools or ask for a fee holiday. I have no doubt my parents would help out with a loan/gift if we were in dire straits (for living I mean, not extras like school).

DH has been away with work for the past two days so he has had all his meals paid for (obviously if he was off work this wouldn't happen!) BUT it means I have had to do all the driving around ferrying the kids to their activities. (If DH were here we would share - I would take and he would collect on his way back from work, which isn't out of his way.) I put £25 in the car on Monday and yesterday evening the petrol light was on red. I was v pleased it was raining so DS1 couldn't go to cricket in the evening (he was fed up) as I thought, actually, I can't afford to drive you there. (we are v rural and really rely on the car).

I had to pay DS2's tennis coach £20 for his lesson yesterday. He plans to make tennis a career so his lessons are important, but if we were on SSP they would definitely have to go. However he has just applied for some funding through a sports grant - if we were on SSP we would have to be more creative in this kind of area and investigate any funding we could access.

Overall it has made me realise that to live on £85 you have to plan more, be organised, creative, cut things out (obviously!). It takes a lot of head-space and thinking time to work it all out and can be quite exhausting. I will assess how successful I have been at the end of the week.

StellaMarie Wed 11-Jul-12 09:20:55

Meal planned for the week only to discover they didn't have some of the ingredients in stock! Change of plan and found some other items (which were reduced) and spent 38.27. This is for 2 adults & 2 teens. The reduced items are in the freezer and a big stew was enjoyed last night. I put some pearl barley in it to bulk it out; cheap, cheerful, healthy and tasty.

I'm using this week to also see if we can substitute some cheaper items for meat. We are not massive meat eaters but I do think we eat too much red meat, hence the pearl barley instead of some of the beef. I also found a recipe that uses some lentils in place of mince in a bolognaise and a nice chickpea burger recipe.

We eat a lot of fish as well but seeing as how I already by pollock instead of haddock or cod I'm not sure how much we can reduce this part of the budget by.

Milk, bread and loo rolls will be needed by the end of the week. Fortunately I bought a large clothes detergent and fabric conditioner last week, that stuff is so expensive.

With regard to other expenditure in the house the tumble dryer is being used more at the moment because of the weather but fortunately there aren't many trips required in the car so am saving on the fuel.

lisad123 Wed 11-Jul-12 09:36:41

Well we were out late and got a takeaway on way home. If I was living on £85 a week certainly not something I would have done BUT if I was living on that amount I wouldn't have been out in London anyways as train fares are stupid amounts of money angry

likelucklove Wed 11-Jul-12 09:38:22

I didn't have time to post yesterday, so here is my post for Tuesday.

Spent £18 in Tesco's on food, birthday cards and flowers since my craft project went horribly wrong! And it is looking like I may have to put petrol in today, which will top up nothing.

DP spent £10 on food and newspapers again hmm I'm sure if this was actually happening of course he wouldn't spending like this but he doesn't really seem 'on board' with the challenge ifswim. But, he did buy tobacco instead of cigarettes so maybe he is thinking a bit more about money.

I ate cereal for breakfast, jacket potato for lunch and sandwiches for tea as I wasn't really hungry.

We have spent £53 so far this week, so I can see us going over by the end of the week. I only smoked one cigarette last night also, since DD was grouchy and didn't go to bed until late.

If I need to cut down my spending, I would immediately give up smoking since I only use it as stress relief sometimes.

I was thinking about utilities also, and am going to phone about my phone contract to see if I can leave it. I never use the allowance since where we live doesn't have good signal. We already have freeview, and are on the cheapest house calls and broadband I could find 3 months ago.

Hopefully Wednesday won't be as bad, but I do need to get formula for DD so that'll be £10 gone. But don't have to go anywhere for the rest if the week so will save on petrol.

I think I would be fine living off SSP, but DP would have more of a shock. However, he does already have protection to cover some pay for certain illnesses/physical ailments, since he plays football 3 times a week. If he was injured during this and the cover wouldn't pay out, I would be annoyed but would go back to work sooner.

Food wise for the rest of the week, we have a stocked pantry and freezer, just some odd bits and pieces like fruit, potatoes and milk will be needed in a few days. I have a meal plan every week so I know what is needed, and have a list of what we have in the house so I can combine the two to make meals cheaply.

likelucklove Wed 11-Jul-12 09:40:11

I didn't have time to post yesterday, so here is my post for Tuesday.

Spent £18 in Tesco's on food, birthday cards and flowers since my craft project went horribly wrong! And it is looking like I may have to put petrol in today, which will top up nothing.

DP spent £10 on food and newspapers again hmm I'm sure if this was actually happening of course he wouldn't spending like this but he doesn't really seem 'on board' with the challenge ifswim. But, he did buy tobacco instead of cigarettes so maybe he is thinking a bit more about money.

I ate cereal for breakfast, jacket potato for lunch and sandwiches for tea as I wasn't really hungry.

We have spent £53 so far this week, so I can see us going over by the end of the week. I only smoked one cigarette last night also, since DD was grouchy and didn't go to bed until late.

If I need to cut down my spending, I would immediately give up smoking since I only use it as stress relief sometimes.

I was thinking about utilities also, and am going to phone about my phone contract to see if I can leave it. I never use the allowance since where we live doesn't have good signal. We already have freeview, and are on the cheapest house calls and broadband I could find 3 months ago.

Hopefully Wednesday won't be as bad, but I do need to get formula for DD so that'll be £10 gone. But don't have to go anywhere for the rest if the week so will save on petrol.

I think I would be fine living off SSP, but DP would have more of a shock. However, he does already have protection to cover some pay for certain illnesses/physical ailments, since he plays football 3 times a week. If he was injured during this and the cover wouldn't pay out, I would be annoyed but would go back to work sooner.

Food wise for the rest of the week, we have a stocked pantry and freezer, just some odd bits and pieces like fruit, potatoes and milk will be needed in a few days. I have a meal plan every week so I know what is needed, and have a list of what we have in the house so I can combine the two to make meals cheaply.

moomoo1967 Wed 11-Jul-12 15:13:38

I am single parent working part-time and studying with the OU the rest of the time towards a degree in Psychology in the hope I can get a better job. My budget is written prior to the 27th of each month and everything has to be factored into that. If anything crops up such as a school trip then if I haven’t got the money the school are usually good and will let me pay the month after. If I want to meet friends for a coffee etc then it has to be organised the month prior so that I can budget it in. I very rarely pay full price for anything including food and clothes.

What cost or expenses are easy to change and what's hard? What's impossible?
When I have been short of money in the past I have called my mobile phone supplier, internet supplier and TV supplier, told them that I wanted to terminate my contract. I have then been put through to the retention dept. who have made me an offer for a six month period so if off sick longer than a week this would help. This only works if you are out of your contracts.
At a push I would not have to spend any money on groceries except for milk, fruit and veg as I have two freezers stocked full and a pantry with dried goods. I would be able to make bread with the dry ingredients in the pantry and also cakes and biscuits.
If it was longer term sick leave then I would have to make decisions on what could have to be terminated.

* What sort of benefits do you currently get from the state / your employer? *
From the state I get Housing Benefit, Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Child Benefit. I also get a bursary towards my DD's Music Tuition and get free instrument hire of one instrument. I am not eligible for free school meals or free school uniform.
I get Childcare vouchers via my Employer as part of my Flexible Benefits and this pays monthly for DD’s holiday club.
* What do you think you'd be entitled to (and when would they kick in) if this happened to you in real life?*
My employers would give me up to 88 days on full pay for short term sick leave and after that up to a period of 12 months at the Employer’s discretion. We also have an income protection scheme and as part of our Flexible Benefits we can have a certain amount for Optical care, Dental Care, amongst other things.
If there are any changes to my circumstances the Tax Credit office and the Housing Benefit office are usually very quick to amend things.

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?
Rent, Council Tax, Gas & Elec, Water rates, Sky, Plusnet, 3Mobile, Contents Insurance, Pet Insurance, TV Licence, Xmas Club, Music Tuition and Instrument hire, Guides subs, Holiday paid monthly, Debt repayments, Transport costs to work(I wouldn’t have to pay this if off sick)

How are children affected by cutting costs? What do they think about the challenge?
My DD loves a challenge and has been telling me off for falling asleep with my bedside light on. If this was a long term situation I would maybe have to reduce the amount of pocket money DD would get but as she gets it a month in arrears she has already had it for this month.
What sort of family support do you think you could get?
My family all live in Cheshire so although they would be there for emotional support there is not much more they could do although I know that they wouldn’t let DD and I starve and my mum would always give me money for food.

Any other issues/ comments?
I don’t think a week is realistic enough for this experiment, even I with my limited income would be able to exist for a week with only £85 after the main bills were paid. The £85 would have to cover food for lunches, any extra costs on electric or gas as I would be in the house and would be using the TV and the lights and possibly the heating.

suzikettles Wed 11-Jul-12 15:37:21

What cost or expenses are easy to change and what's hard? What's impossible?
We were able to make quite considerable savings by just generally stopping frittering money away. I'm really quite blush and the amount of money we were spending on nothing each month. When dh gets back on his feet I hope to use this experience to our advantage by keeping some of the good habits (budgeting especially) that we've needed to develop, and I think it'll mean we'll be on a better financial footing long term.

Costs that were difficult to change included most fixed bills - utilities on dd and at the best rate, phone/broadband/mobiles on contracts with a while to go. We also have some debt that we're repaying which I'm keeping up with, but long term that might be something we could have renegotiated. Also car bills - it's a very old car and long term might just have to get rid.

We've also had to keep paying for child care even though we don't need to use it (afterschool club) as the nature of dh's illness means that there's no predictable date that he'll return to work. He always hopes to be back after his sick line which can be a week or a month but hasn't managed so far. With this unpredictability and the fact that afterschool care is locally oversubscribed we just have to keep it going.

What sort of benefits do you currently get from the state / your employer?
Child benefit. We're over the threshold for tax credits as we only have one child.

What do you think you'd be entitled to (and when would they kick in) if this happened to you in real life?
Well, obv in our case this is real life, and so we won't get any additional state help. My biggest worry is ssp running out or dh's employer sacking him. We won't qualify for any means tested benefits and things will really hit hard if we lose that £85 per week.

If the situation was reversed and it was me off sick then I'd get 6 months full pay and 6 months half pay, plus access to a great occupational health service - none of which dh has. We'd also qualify for means tested benefits in the long term since I'm the higher earner (but obviously nothing like enough to replace my wage).

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?
We're coping ok at the moment on my salary. If dh loses ssp then we'd have to look at stopping childcare and then I don't know what. Our mortgage is low and certainly cheaper than rent, we're in a 1 bed so can't downsize. We have a lot of equity but not enough money to do repairs that need to be done to sell in this market.

How are children affected by cutting costs? What do they think about the challenge?
Ds is a bit more aware of the cost of things than I feel he needs to be at his age (5). It gets a bit wearing saying no, but I don't think he's really disadvantaged.

What sort of family support do you think you could get?
My parents would, and have, help us out if it came to the crunch. I'd rather they didn't have to though and will do anything rather than ask at the moment. (and we don't need to at the moment).

Anyway, no spend day today!

Hopezibah Wed 11-Jul-12 17:42:41

Day 3 - a relatively 'easy' day budget-wise (leftover dinner for kids from yesterday and me and hubby are out at friends for dinner tonight.) That is a thought...if budget was tight, rather than eating out, meals with friends at each others houses would be a great alternative. The weather has provided our activity today...the boys have been enjoying the thunderstorm and doing plenty of rainwater and mud play outdoors!!! My plan for going strawberry picking as a cheap activity went out the window when the heavens opened. We'll keep that in mind for another day...an afternoons fun for a couple of quid AND you get to keep the strawberries to eat. Tomorrow is going to be the biggest challenge of the week - 3 different activities the kids are involved in and none of them that we would want to give up!

Hopezibah Wed 11-Jul-12 17:45:52

p.s. the kids are SO on board with this challenge that they actually said it was a good thing that it rained as it is cheaper to stay home than go strawberry picking!

gazzalw Wed 11-Jul-12 17:54:25

It’s with some trepidation that we are rising to this £85-to-live-on challenge. We are a one income (above average salary but wouldn’t say we are a ‘comfortably’ off family. Thus far, healthy ‘older parents’ of primary school aged children, so the type of scenario that this challenge is supposed to highlight hasn’t ever happened to us. We do have Mortgage Protection Cover just in case though, although recently DW (who is the main financial decision-maker) has been wondering whether we wouldn’t have been better off saving the years of contributions – think we would have been about £11,000 richer now (!). I think if anything, reviewing our finances, we have been considering whether having such a policy is the best use of our financial resources in this current economic climate.

Anyway, the good news is that all our must-pay direct debits covering insurances, mortgage, utilities bills, savings etc….go out right at the end of one month/beginning of the next month so to do this challenge on Week 2 of our monthly budgeting serves us considerably better than if we’d done it say on the week commencing 1st July (when we would have been totally stuffed financially). The bad news is that we have a reasonably full freezer but the basics (milk, cheese, fruit and lunchbox items) are running low in stock as we start our week.

Generally DW is a lot more savvy with money than I am. But then she has to juggle most of the family day-to-day living expenses out of the joint account monthly budget. She does not budget per week but does keep a close eye on finances and has been known to have £50 left her to last more than a week when we’ve had a particularly heavy month of expenditure. We do quite a lot with the children but most activities tend to be free, won as prizes or low-cost. I would not say we are extravagant at all but I do sometimes question quite what I spend my funds on every month, as I guess I have a lot more flex with my money than DW has managing the family money pot.

We do have savings, although total probably doesn’t exceed £5,000 and some of that money is tied into ten year bonds. The children have savings which amount to nearly as much as ours (!) but again they are tied into savings accounts and we never would touch their money. No generous relatives here to help us even though DW’s are very comfortably off! Sure SIL would sub us a bit if needed but wouldn’t want to get into a situation of being in any type of debt to a family member!

In terms of dividing our £85, as DW manages 85 % of the household expenses, she’s apportioned herself £55 of the money and given me £30 which probably is unfair as I probably need to spend virtually nothing (as I have a travel season ticket, read free newspapers on the journey to/from work, take in sandwiches most days and have access to coffee on tap in the Office). That’s the theory…. I do realize that I fritter away quite a lot of money on stopping off for a swift pint on the way home so it will be quite a challenge to see if I can bypass my ‘local’ on the way home, otherwise my £30 won’t last long at all!

DW started off yesterday being quite confident about this challenge, although she fully acknowledged that what is do-able for a week as an experiment probably wouldn’t be sustainable for a family for longer than that. Last week was a blip for money sapping ‘extras’ - a family friends’ daughter’s birthday pressie (£10), rucksack for DS for secondary school (£10), school photos (£30), school trip for DD (£8.50) money for a teacher’s leaving pressie (£5)– I think that would have wiped out a fairly large % of her budget before she’d even considered the staples of life! This week is probably a fairly low cost in terms of anticipated extras (£1.00 for DS’s school disco), the possibility of buying a couple of items in the second hand uniform sale (no more than £3) and a starting secondary school parents evening which will require additional public transport costs for DW (£5) when she normally walks everywhere. I dare say we could have ‘forgotten’ to give DS his £1 contribution for the disco but that wouldn’t really have been right would it? Nevertheless that’s still possibly £8/£9 already committed out of DW’s budget and that’s before we’ve starting spending anything!

Initially she considered getting out the £85 in cash and dividing it up yesterday, but decided that cash in hand is more likely to be spent ‘carelessly’ so we are just getting money out of the cashpoint £10 at a time, keeping a tally of total expenditure. Not sure what we will do if we run out before the week is out….. Fortunately the weekend activities we have lined up are all free and won’t incur additional travel expenses grin – phew!

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