The best of 2016: Saving for a holiday on the pension

Hello sixty somethings. Last year SAS published an article on how to save $100 a fortnight on a pension and how there are holidays out there you can afford if you do this. I decided to have a go just for one fortnight and see how I went. Now before I tell you, I want to say that I am not doing this because I think SAS was wrong and it is ridiculous to think you can save this amount on a pension. I did this because I thought that the information they were given did not have everything that it takes to live, factored into it. I believe that unless you have to live on a pension alone, most people have no idea how hard it really is, no matter what they say. So here goes.

Firstly this was done by SAS in good faith. It was also done with an average rent paid of $200 a week. I have asked around and amongst my friends, I can’t find anyone paying as little as that. I live in Tasmania so this is on Tassie prices. I pay $295 a week for a small unit in a suburb outside of Hobart. If you own a home with no mortgage, it would probably make it a little easier. It was also calculated on a grocery bill of $100 a fortnight. This is definitely never going to work in Tasmania. So here is what I did.

I paid my rent. I then headed out to get groceries. I bought as many home brand items as I could. All my life I have eaten Uncle Toby’s oats. I decided to try the home brand oats and saved $2.50 for the same amount. I found I could not tell the difference in taste when I ate them. This is a good start right? I went to a cheap store “Shiploads” and bought Nescafé coffee, bin bags and detention, all cheaper than the supermarket. I only needed some toiletries but that would balance each other out in the next fortnight. I didn’t need washing powder and on the advice of a couple of SAS readers, I will buy in bulk next time. With the farmers doing it tough, I try to buy local milk, but for the experiment, I only bought a small carton of said milk and got UHT milk instead which saved me $2.30. I decided to go to the markets for fresh produce and found that most were as dear if not dearer than the supermarket. This was a shock to me, not to mention a little disheartening. I went back to the supermarket for the produce and waited till Sunday. That way I could take advantage of the meat specials. Bought a whole pumpkin because it was 80 cents a kilo if bought whole and $2.87 a kilo if bought by the piece!  

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So, with everything I needed, I went about cooking bulk meals. I utilised the pumpkin and made enough to for some dinners and some lunches. I also made chicken curries and chicken stir fries with the reduced price chicken pieces I got. I bought reduced price beef chunks and made beef stir fries. I used a combination of frozen stir fry and fresh veggies. It was cheaper that way and apparently snap frozen veggies have plenty of goodness.  

It’s been two weeks since I started the experiment. My groceries, including extra bread and milk that I ran out of cost me $151.80. That included $13.00 for dog food. I put $30.00 in petrol in the car. I needed a script and got an ear infection so had to spend $24.30 at the pharmacy. I also pay $40.00 a fortnight in power so I don’t have a large bill. My phone bill came in and I halved it to make it for a fortnight. I also worked out my contents insurance and car insurance which is only for fire and theft. Tomorrow I my pension again. I have $86.80 left in the bank. I didn’t make the $100 and believe me I really tried.

Here’s the thing though: I didn’t buy any biscuits or desserts or any treats in my groceries. I scrimped on everything. I did have more than enough soup and plenty of main meals which were very nice. I didn’t go for a drive or to the movies. I did go to the beach twice to take my little dog for a walk. It is only a three minute drive. I had no extras of any sort. I did not allow anything for car registration or clothing, both of which I will need soon. I doubt that when the travel agents give you holiday prices that they allow for travel insurance which everyone should have. I doubt they add meals in, except maybe a hotel deal with breakfast.  

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So what I found was maybe, just maybe some people could save that, but not many. Most people pay over $200 in rent or mortgage. If you are a couple on a pension, you would have to pay a little more for food and perhaps power for the extra shower but it still costs the same to turn on a light or TV for two as for one, so maybe a couple could save a little more? I didn’t mind the home brands but I was disappointed that fresh produce was more expensive. If nothing unforeseen happened and you didn’t need clothing for instance, you might get by.

This has been an interesting experiment for me. I don’t think about it most times and sometimes I even feel a little sorry for myself and then feel guilty. But not anymore. We of the older generation who are not fortunate enough to have a nest egg or our own home for whatever reason are doing it tough. I don’t class what I have been doing for many months now as living. It is existing.  Heaven forbid that we would want to see a movie occasionally or go to the movies or just have a coffee with friends. God help us if we have an emergency of some kind. As for a holiday, we all deserve one of those once in awhile, so I will continue to save, even if it takes me three years to take a small holiday. As for the holiday itself, it is cheaper to go on a small cruise than a trip anywhere in your own country. Does that not tell Australia something? At least if you go on a cruise, even around the top of Queensland for instance for a few days, it includes very nice accomodation and meals, good meals and entertainment.  

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Fellow pensioners, don’t give up. Don’t let them beat you and don’t let them tell you that your pension is plenty to live on or you should be grateful. It isn’t plenty and “they” should be grateful they don’t have to live on it, because it would only be the ones who don’t have to live on it that will tell you that. As for the holiday, keep saving and hoping. Check out cruises maybe and pay a couple of dollars a week off one till its paid. Live in hope that your own country won’t make it so hard for you to see some of it as you get older and never give up trying to live, instead of exist.

Share your thoughts below.

This piece was originally published on Starts at 60 as ‘Sixty something: Saving for a holiday, on the pension’. It was one of our most popular contributions by the Starts at 60 community in 2016.

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