[And some stuff about class. Skip a few paragraphs if you’re just interested in the numbers]
Are you spending more or less right now? For a lot of people this isn’t a choice. Money is getting tighter for everyone who has lost their job, or had a pay cut, or exists in one of the gaps not covered by emergency policies.
Even those who are doing OK may well be cutting down on costs in anticipation of a long economic winter.
Most socialists say that if you rely on wage labour for your living then you’re working class.
In normal times it’s a definition that feels strict, old fashioned, and ahistorical.
It’s a definition that denies the distance in living conditions between the 19th and 21st centuries.
And it feels odd for someone we would call middle class to put themselves in the same bracket as the poorest in society, not to mention the difference between rich countries and poor countries.
But right now maybe it feels more real?
We sell our labour for a living, we can’t do without our wages, we’re (mostly) two months from poverty.
That doesn’t quite apply to me, and probably not to a lot of people in the FIRE community. We have a good couple of years worth of savings separating ourselves and poverty. We’re an anomaly and an exception that proves the rule; you can’t do capitalism if everyone stops working.
The crisis reminds me that personal finances are never strictly personal. Your finances are social. You can squirrel away money based on your personal habits, but the source of that money and its future success as an investment both depend on the actions and living conditions of the other people that you inhabit this planet with.
We can only do FIRE because, by the strictest definition, the working class is very much a present feature of society. Class has never felt more real to me than it does today.
… an update on my own personal finances
This post was meant to be a quick update on my own financial situation, partly to satisfy my curiosity about how much I’m spending. I guess I just couldn’t resist a Sunday morning ramble.
Anyway, here are some of the new habits I’ve picked up since all this went down:
- I’ve stopped drinking coffee because I’ve lost access to the free stuff at work
- I’m using about 1/3 as much hair wax (down from once a day) because I’m not feeling as self-conscious about how I look
- I’m showering about 1/2 as much for the same reason, and using less shampoo (I used to shampoo every day because my blond hair goes from fluffy to greasy dangerously quickly, possibly under the influence of too much hair wax)
- I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home, so I’m getting more time to myself and saving nearly £600 a month on commuting
The last item is particularly drastic. It was always on the cards to stop commuting; the plan was to move up north and work from one of my employer’s regional offices. The plan has been accelerated by a few months and no longer needs a move, although I’ll probably still move soon-ish.
Onto the numbers.
I haven’t been systematically tracking my expenses since last summer. But this weekend I took a bit of time out to look back at 23 January – 23 April. Across those three months my total spend was £2,006.55. That’s an average monthly spend of £668.85.
My average spend for the last three months that I tracked and posted about – April to July 2019 – was £680.01 (excluding train costs).
So hardly any change after a year.
I’m spending less on social costs right now, but more on electricity and groceries.
I used to save a lot on groceries by saving up and using special discounts for online shopping but these aren’t available anymore, and there are less multi-buy offers. I’ve offset this a bit by shopping at a cheaper supermarket.
Anyway, it’s satisfying to me that my spending is almost identical now to what it was a year ago. It suggests that the habit of frugality is sticking, and it has been a happy year so spending what’s considered a very small amount (on average less than £150 a month when you take out unavoidable bills) isn’t ruining my life.