/ Money

Are you still penny pinching?

Pile of pennies

For the first time in almost a decade, family spending fell last year. In 2009 the average household spent less on everything from clothes to package holidays. But are you still watching the pennies?

Or are you splashing out with reckless abandon? We’re well into the Christmas shopping period, with Manic Monday just passing for online retailers, so isn’t it time to throw away our cares and get the wallet out?

Well, we may be shopping to our hearts’ content this Christmas, but our average weekly spend has dropped.

Last year UK families spent an average of £455 a week, down from £471 in 2008. According to the Office for National Statistics, which carried out the survey of over 5,000 households, this was the lowest weekly spend for almost 10 years.

Families continued to spend most of their cash on transport, recreation, energy and housing. But clothes, shoes and household goods all saw a cut – a suggestion that the recession really took a hold of our spending habits.

Sales of cinema, theatre, concert and sporting event tickets remained strong, but perhaps unsurprisingly, package holidays took a hit. Our wallet watching clearly meant that many of us preferred to entertain ourselves at home in the UK, rather than splashing out on trips abroad.

I wonder if the average family spend also dropped this year, and whether the VAT hike next year will have a similar effect? It certainly doesn’t look like the country will be comfortable to push the boat out any time soon. Dave Darwent reflected this mindset in a reply to our Conversation on whether you were buying now to avoid the VAT hike:

‘Frankly I was already tightening my belt,’ he said, ‘and the VAT rise announcement just made me tighten it even more! I shall be buying as little as I can of everything and only buying anything at all if it’s totally essential.’

Have you been holding your cash close to your chest for the past couple of years? Or maybe your spending hasn’t taken a hit at all?

lamy says:
1 December 2010

We have been very careful this year,looking for the cheap best buys,no more Sainsburys,doing the weekly shop at lidl,went on holiday to Inverness instead of Spain,and only one holiday this year instead of three,things are tight,and wages are not going up but the cost of living has

Sophie Gilbert says:
2 December 2010

My salary is below the national average, so penny pinching (although I would call it frugality) isn’t a concept that is entirely new to me. The current financial climate is an encouragement to remain thrifty!

On my state pension – I have no choice but to penny pinch – £97 a week doesn’t go far – plus the interest on my money laughingly called savings has dropped by NINETY percent.

I’m lucky if I can afford a meal for Christmas – let alone a decent one. I’m saving up for a Christmas pudding.

If you’re moaning about savings interest then you must have some savings. Why not buy yourself a christmas pudding with those. Many of us have never had enough money to “save” in the first place.

I have £124 savings – Just over one weeks state pension. Interest at 0.2% gives a princely sum of £2 for a whole year..

I was taught to live within my budget – which meant I was never in debt (apart from mortgage) – to do so I made “sacrifices” to stay out of debt. – yet only have £126 for 45 years of saving

Elizabeth McAndrew says:
2 June 2011

Usually people who receive only the bare pension have their rent and rates paid if they have less than 8K in the bank. I believe there should be a cap on the amount of rent and rates one can receive from the Social Security.


No – only if you agree to be means tested – A very large number of pensioners disagree with the very idea of any form of means testing and refuse to be means tested – they paid for a state pension that was meant to be an amount to live on. . My point is the standard state pension is now below the poverty line (it never used to be until Thatcher) – Something we were promised it would NOT be when we signed up for it in 1948. Thatcher’s policies removed the link with average earnings and caused state pensioners to fall into poverty after paying everything that was asked of us,

Steve in Essex says:
7 July 2011

Penny pinching, I’m not.

Living Below Your Means (LBYM) is something that I have practised for quite a few years, as in
the TV is still a CRT because it still works well so I see no reason to change it
my mobile phone is 6 years old, ditto
my car is 11 years old, ditto

I still like to enjoy good quality food and drink, but by not shopping at the supermarkets, I can. It is actually cheaper to buy from the local butcher, greengrocer and baker than it is from the supermarkets because there is less waste. And the meat is not pumped up with water.