As lockdown life continues to take its toll, there is a silver lining for some, at least. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, there is little for us to spend our money on — and many people’s bank balances have received a welcome boost.
Bank of England figures this week revealed that families have squirreled away more than £150 billion over the past year.
This highlights the uneven impact of the pandemic, with the nation increasingly divided into ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.
Spending money: Bank of England figures this week revealed that families have squirreled away more than £150 billion over the past year
Last month, official research revealed that nearly nine million people have had to borrow money to get through the pandemic, with the young and poor worst hit.
But the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, says that with better-off households primed to go on a spending spree when lockdown eventually ends, they will give our economy a vital shot in the arm.
Here, five families reveal how lockdown has helped them improve their finances — and how they plan to spend the cash they saved.
We bought our first home
Better off: Mirnalini Raman and husband Ajay saved a huge £26,850 in lockdown
Mirnalini Raman, 37, a children’s luxury party planner, lives in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire with husband Ajay, 39, a company director, and their two sons aged seven and nine. She says:
We were so looking forward to 2020, as we had two three-week holidays booked – one to India, one to America – and had budgeted £12,000 in total for flights and other costs.
The cancelled flights were refunded when they were cancelled and our spending money was untouched, but that was far from our only saving in 2020.
Although my children’s party business pretty much ground to a halt, I was staggered to see that I saved thousands on travel, fortnightly hair appointments, business lunches and family dinners.
I’m also a very sociable person. I dine out with friends most weeks, spending about £50 a meal, so there has been another huge saving there.
Our sons do lots of after-school sports, which were cancelled — and although they missed the cricket, football, swimming, dance and drama classes, that left us £1,000 better off.
We are in a rented house and were saving a deposit, hoping to buy our own place in a couple of years. But thanks to the extra £26,000 added to our coffers since March, we became the proud owners of our dream family home – a three-bedroom detached with a 100ft garden – last month.
I’m acutely aware of how lucky we are to have fared so well during this crisis and know other small business owners who have been ruined.
The main reason is that my husband kept working full-time and, although I’ve lost earnings, our expenses have shrunk to the real basics.
I’ve had three big parties cancelled since last March due to government restrictions but my clients have rescheduled for this year in the hope that restrictions will be lifted once most people are vaccinated.
Then, I suspect, many other people will be wanting to spend their savings.
- Holidays (cancelled trips to India and America): £12,000
- Weekends away (Center Parcs trip cancelled): £800
- Kids’ before/after school club and holiday activities: £1,000
- Work clothes: £900
- Petrol/public transport to work (usual spend is around £150 per week): £5,250
- Dining out (I eat out with friends, family and clients two to three times a week, spending £150 most weeks): £5,200
- Other socialising (friend’s birthday party and four different Christmas dinners cancelled): £500
- Hair/beauty treatments: £1,200
A world tour is our next project
Emma Thomas, 33, and husband David, 32, are actors and live in St Neot’s, Cambridgeshire. She says:
We love travelling and had planned so many trips abroad – to America, the Middle East and mainland Europe last year.
As actors who mostly work in theatre, which has remained closed since March, we knew early on in lockdown that we needed to find another source of income.
Globetrotters: Emma Thomas, 33, and husband David, 32, have saved £11,264 and are now planning the holiday of a lifetime
Our first port of call was the local branch of Tesco, which hired us on the spot. We have worked five nights a week ever since, mostly packing orders for home delivery. It can be 2am to 10am or 4am to noon.
David has also offered his services as a gardener during the day and before the latest lockdown we were among the cast in a children’s theatrical experience at Harrods.
With restaurants, pubs, theatres and cinemas closed, plus the £8,000 we would have spent on travelling, it’s been amazing seeing our savings grow.
In fact, it has enabled us to realise our dream of buying a Vauxhall Vivaro van, which cost £8,475 including the value of our old car in part-exchange.
We are going to convert it into a camper van, ready to set off on our travels once the pandemic permits – first around the UK, then Europe, then the rest of the world.
I fear our industry will be the last to get back on its feet, which saddens me as life will be poorer for us all without live theatre.
However, knowing that so many have suffered financially, we feel incredibly fortunate to have had other ways to put food on the table, pay the bills and actually save up for something that will make future years such fun.
- Holidays (trips to Dubai, USA, Canada, Estonia and Denmark all cancelled): £8,000
- Weekends away (had planned to go to Bath): £150
- Petrol/public transport to work: £1,600
- Dining out: £320
- Nights out at the pub/cinema/theatre: £614
- Hair & beauty treatments: £80
- Other socialising (David’s best friend’s wedding and Emma’s sister’s hen do both cancelled): £500
We gave our home a makeover – then sold it
Amber Leach has saved £13,250 in lockdown
Amber Leach, 38, a wedding photographer, lives in Plymouth with husband Jesse, 34, a manager for Riverford Organic Farmers, and their three children aged 12, eight and one. She says:
I did a few small weddings in 2020 but lost about 80 per cent of my income. However, astonishingly, we have managed to save thousands.
We had to cancel our holidays to Italy and Dorset, as well as weekends away, which saved us about £4,500.
My children and husband all missed out on birthday parties, too, which together with a family wedding that was cancelled would have cost nearly £1,000.
Not being able to eat out means I’ve been more adventurous with cooking at home, and it costs a fraction of the £100 we usually pay to eat out once a fortnight.
Although I’ve missed my beauty treatments, not having them has saved me hundreds.
My eldest daughter normally takes part in dance shows and competitions, and then there’s the kids’ clubs, petrol and running around. As I wasn’t using my lease car I returned it, saving a further £2,000.
With surplus cash and a lot more time at home, we decided to do up our house, installing a new bathroom, painting inside and out and giving the garden a makeover.
Amber and Jesse decided to do up their home, installing a new bathroom, painting inside and out and giving the garden a makeover
It looked so much better that we got it valued and, swept along by the excitement of it all, put it on the market. It sold within four days.
We have now bought a five-bedroom house, a renovation project, and will continue to use savings to get it just as we want.
We count our lucky stars that the business Jesse works for, unlike so many, is booming as lots of people have been ordering fruit and vegetable home delivery boxes this year.
And it’s been lovely having more time at home with the children, especially as our youngest has just turned one. Still, I think we’ll all be glad for life to get back to normal.’
- Holidays (no trip to Sorrento or camping in Dorset): £3,500
- Weekends away (cancelled trips to London and Bristol): £1,000
- Kids’ clubs: £800
- Daughter’s dancing: £1,000
- Petrol for work: £1,800
- Dining out: £1,000
- Nights out (pub/cinema/theatre): £450
- Hair & beauty treatments: £500
- Parties, weddings and christenings: £1,000
- Takeaway coffees: £200
- Return of lease car: £2,000
We’ll never be in debt again
Laura Wainwright, 32, an HR manager, lives in Halifax, West Yorkshire, with husband Chris, 45, who works in IT, and their two children aged three and nine. She says:
We are both very lucky not to have been furloughed and that we have been able to work from home, saving thousands of pounds.
Only last year we had credit card debt totalling £8,000, much of it accrued by me paying for professional training courses.
Even before the pandemic we had adopted some very frugal habits to help clear it, such as keeping food costs to £50 a week, taking packed lunches to work and resisting the temptation of takeaway coffees.
So we were already in the right mindset for saving money when the pandemic struck.
We managed to go on holiday to Spain in the summer, but have been unable to enjoy our usual days out to the seaside and national parks, or weekends away in the UK. We saved over £2,000 by missing out on all that fun.
Another huge expense that’s largely gone while working from home is petrol – we both used to have a 30-mile round trip to work.
Like all parents, one of the biggest challenges we have faced is our children’s school and nursery closing – but it saved us £1,500 in fees.
Then there’s all the money we haven’t spent on our social lives. We are well aware how fortunate we are. My mum lost her job, though luckily found another, and my dad is a self-employed driving instructor, so he has been badly hit.
Our plan is to use our savings to pay £5,000 off the mortgage, plus keep some as a safety net so if the boiler breaks down or cars need repairing, we don’t have to get into debt again. This pandemic has taught us to prepare for any eventuality.
- Weekends away and days out: £2,240
- Childcare and kids’ holiday clubs: £1,470
- Work clothes: £300
- Petrol/public transport to work: £1,350
- Dining out: £1,000
- Nights out at the pub/cinema/theatre: £1,000
- Hair appointments and beauty treatments: £100
- Parties/weddings/christenings: £500
- Careful meal planning: £500
One step closer to a sports car
Cath Drews, 42, a nurse, lives in Llanelli, West Wales, with partner Darren, 41, a disability support worker. They have four children between them, aged two to 18. She says:
As a specialist nurse (I work with patients with lymphoedema, where excess fluid causes swelling in the body), I have been fortunate that I’ve been able to consult with patients online from home.
While it’s always challenging working with a little one around, we saved well over £1,000 in nursery fees – and then more because our eight-year-old’s swimming lessons were also cancelled.
I’d never really thought about how much of my wages went on buying lunches until I realised I’d saved hundreds by making myself a sandwich at home.
Although it was scary, particularly in the early days of the pandemic when I had to go into the hospital to work, I feel very fortunate to have job security, unlike so many others.
And, rather than holding on to our savings, we have done our bit to keep the UK economy ticking over by splashing out on all kinds of new things.
We bought an American fridge-freezer for £600, a giant paddling pool and the Astroturf to go underneath it for £250, and Darren put down a deposit on a three-year-old Audi sports car.
In November we had a family break at Bluestone National Park in Pembrokeshire, which hosted a big Christmas-themed event.
That was something we would never usually be able to afford at this time of year – but it was worth every penny of the £800 that it cost.
It has been a very challenging ten months for so many, and my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones.
The world would be a much better place without this pandemic. Our savings are a very small bonus amid all that misery.
- Holidays (family holiday to Cornwall cancelled): £1,800
- Weekends away (cancelled trips to places including Peppa Pig World and other theme parks): £1,250
- Childcare: £1,520
- Dining out: £400
- Nights out at the pub/cinema/theatre: £80
- Hair and beauty treatments: £270
- Parties/weddings/christenings (Sister-in-law’s wedding postponed): £500
- Work lunches: £400
- Takeaway coffees: £60
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