Sixty something: Saving for a holiday, on the pension 17



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Hello sixty somethings. A couple of weeks ago 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!  

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.  

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.  

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.

Fran Spears

Born in 1953. Came to Hobart from the north west coast of Tassie to be closer to my son as I have mild chronic bronchitis. Mild and chronic in same sentence – even that makes me laugh. Have just completed and passed my diploma in Public Relations. Love to write and have lead a reasonably interesting life. My motto: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

  1. Yes living on a pension is living below the poverty line but so many of us have to do it luckily we have a never give up spirit that keeps us going it really is about time a politician said enough the pension needs to be increased they walk away with thousands of dollars for the rest of their lives in pension we to have served our country in taxes etc are we not intitled to be comfortable in our old age the number of homeless people is also on the rise shameful in a country that is suppose to be the lucky


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  2. Well,
    You ARE an optimist. To think that the Govt of either persuasion would want you to have a holiday if at all possible!
    If it was at all likely that you were going to be able to afford one, they would ensure you couldn’t, as it would mean less for their own lurks and perks.
    How dare you think that you could possibly be entitled to a holiday after spending your working life paying taxes which (in case you don’t remember) incorporate your pension which you are now led to feel guilty about claiming, because the pollies of the day would rather rort the system for themselves and their political party, no matter the creed.
    Just be thankful we haven’t QUITE gone down the US route where the aim of the game is to screw your fellow man and when done screw him/her again to ensure that the job is done properly.

  3. That is a really interesting article. Thanks for it. My husband and I are looking at retirement next year, but hopefully we will not have a mortgage, so that does make a difference. Any advice given is helpful to us.

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    • You may not have a mortgage but it still costs to live in your own house factoring in rates and taxex it amounts to about 150/week for me

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  4. Fully agree with your take on trying to work the holiday out. I havent had a holiday as such since 2000 and then that was paid for by my English relations who wanted to catch up. i pay $460 a fortnight rent in a shared house with family. I pay the electric by using my advance from centerlink. I put money in to the food. I have my meds packed by the chemist so have to pay for them once a month. I make payments on line for banking and phone. I am lucky if I have $20 left so no movies for me and as to going to my passion, the theater for get it!

  5. SO, for God’s sake, THINK before you vote……………LABOR puts people before big business!!!!!!

  6. I found this very interesting a good excersize. You did mention maybe it’s easier for a couple. ..the unfortunate thing about this comment is once your a couple you lose $200 each from your pension. .i was better off on a single pension.

  7. And they keep trying totell us that the pension is ample to live on. This is why, despite ill health I am still working full time at 66 although I would much rather be doing some of the things on my bucket list.

  8. And they keep trying totell us that the pension is ample to live on. This is why, despite ill health I am still working full time at 66 although I would much rather be doing some of the things on my bucket list.

  9. Glad to see you in print Fran – I hadn’t seen your name or the Stephenson lady for months. You two are a feisty pair but say it as it is. All the best.

  10. We are supporting a grown son (health issues) and paying $286 per month private health insurance..our mortgage is finished but keeping a house instead of a unit is more $$$. I am hoping to save more in food and other stuff but its tight and we have some super to top up…we may need the British system of allotments to grow our own food eh?

  11. As you say, you’re in Tasmania, wish I was there! $200 a week rent, those were the days. Idon’t know what SAS is, but they should come to Sydney and try that. Average rent if lucky $400 per week, grocery prices out of control as is fruit and veg (85c for one small lemon )Although I have an air conditioner, I can’t afford to turn it on and I consider myself one of the lucky ones, as I have Social Housing and pay $120 per week, but each time we get a little rise the State Govt takes 25%. And boy ! would I love an allotment!

  12. Can someone please tell me why if Ordinary working class people pay taxes all their working lives doing a job which must be necessary to the good of Australia or else the job would not be available get from the government a pension that puts you below the poverty line but a politician with only 26 years of service is leaving Parliament with a yearly pension of $300,000. What is the difference between the service a working man does and what a politician does? We all work so why the vast difference. According to The Sunday Mail this morning, we, the taxpayers pay out $40million Dollars a year in pensions to retired politicians who I may add can go out and secure themselves a big fat paying job with no limits on how much they can earn whilst an old age pensioner is only allowed to earn $6500 ayear if they are healthy enough to be able to work and providing they can secure a job for themselves. This is my whinge for the day.

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