Blogger, 42, makes £2k a month and dreams of retiring at 50

In our How I Manage My Money series, we aim to find out how people in the UK are spending, saving and investing money to meet their costs and achieve their goals.This week we speak to Janine Marsh, 42, who lives in Timperley, Greater Manchester, with her husband Stephen, 44, and their sons, Leo, 8, and Sonny, 3. Janine runs a blog called Thrifty Family and works freelance doing radio and voiceover work. She lost her job during the pandemic and tried to shield her children from her money worries. A year ago, Janine would have been content earning £40,000 a year, but with living costs so high, she reckons she needs to be making £45,000 a year to be comfortable. Janine would love to retire in her 50s and buy a holiday home in Spain.
Monthly budget

Income: I make about £1,500 a month from my blog, Thrifty Family, and £500 from freelance radio and voiceover work. In total, my income is £2,000 a month, but it varies. My husband also has a variable income coming in as he owns a production company called Bread and Butter.

Our monthly outgoings: Mortgage, £995; groceries, about £600, or £150 a week; car finance, £205; council tax, £139; gas and electric, £154; water, £42.70; car fuel, £60; home insurance, £17; life insurance, £68; TV licence, £13.25; mobile phone, £45; gym, £13.49 – half price via Vitality; Netflix, £6.99; TV and broadband, £60; swimming for the kids, £25. Our childcare costs are about £390 a term. I put £110 into a savings account. We sometimes eat out at Pizza Express, for £40 a time with vouchers.
I never went to university because when I was 18, as I didn’t have a clear idea of what career I wanted. I didn’t think it was worth going and getting into debt. I fell into a job at a stockbroker firm, and they eventually gave me dealer training. At 19 I was executing deals in a male-dominated industry. If I had stayed in that line of work, I’d probably have a lot of money, but I wouldn’t have had the life I’ve lived.I used to listen to Jo Good on Galaxy radio. She was so good at her job and made it sound easy, so I sent her an email. Little did I know that this was the start of a 20-year career in radio for me. Jo used to let me sneak into the building in my lunch hour to learn the ropes. I then started presenting the travel news for various stations before getting my own radio show. Initially, the pay wasn’t great, but over time I was earning about £3,500 a month before tax.I lost my job in 2020 and it was scary. The pool of jobs as a radio presenter is scarce and most commercial stations want well-known celebrities so they can draw an audience across the UK. I applied for lots of jobs and faced a lot of rejection. One interviewer asked why I’d want to work for their company after I’d enjoyed a fun career in radio. It is hard to get across the yearning for financial stability when you are a mother of two. I pored over LinkedIn for hours and messaged people for advice. My little boy was only one, so it felt emotionally overwhelming and mentally draining. I was also homeschooling my eldest while job hunting. I think all parents try to shield their kids from money worries. I certainly did. At the start of 2021, my husband and I didn’t have full-time jobs and the situation seemed pretty bleak. Related ArticleNow, I run my own blog called Thrifty Family, having set it up in October 2022. I help families save money while still enjoying the odd family treat. It’s for people, who, like me, have had to alter their spending amid the cost-of-living crisis and higher interest rates. I make money from the website through affiliate marketing. As well as my blog, I do freelance radio and voice over work. In total, my income is around £2,000 a month after deductions. I don’t know any freelancers who don’t worry about money. Some months the chips are up and others they are down. That’s why it’s hard to save. I feel like I am treading water, but there are times when things go wrong, and it feels like I’m going under. My youngest needed his tonsils and adenoids out urgently and instead of waiting for a year on an NHS waiting list, we paid £3,500 so he could get it done privately. Unexpected costs like these are hard to cover.I use vouchers nearly every day. I use vouchers from my Vitality insurance to get a free coffee, watch films at home and go to the cinema. We use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to eat out at Pizza Express, which costs about £40 a time. I use the Shopmium app for any coupons for products we use at home and the O2 Priority app to either get a free coffee or sausage roll at Greggs. If I buy anything online, I go via TopCashBack and I always look for discount codes online before I buy anything. This country is insane when it comes to childcare costs. I’m a fan of the Pregnant Then Screwed charity and their work campaigning for a better system. When my eldest was one, we paid £1,250 a month for childcare, spending £15,000 in one year. It feels like mothers with careers quite literally pay the price for having a child. I know so many people who have questioned whether there’s any point going back to work when the majority of your wages go towards paying someone else. If I’m brutally honest, money feels like security to me. When I was in my early 30s, I was on a really good salary and managed to get out of my overdraft, pay for half my wedding, save some money and financially prepare for my first baby. Now, I would like to earn more money, not to buy lavish things, but to provide a good future for my sons. A year ago, I’d have said that my ideal annual salary would be £40,000. Now, however, I think I’d need to be making £45,000 a year to be comfortable.I’ll always be a frugal person, but there are things I’d love to do to our house, like get a new kitchen, which we simply can’t currently afford. At some point our sons will need their own rooms, and we’d like a double extension, which could cost as much as £100,000. Everything I earn goes towards basics and bills, because prices have gone up so much. Since losing my job, saving has become very difficult. I add £110 to a Skipton Bonus Saver account, which has an interest rate of 4.2 per cent. I plan to transfer the money from it into a private pension at some point.I would love to retire when I am in my 50s, but realistically I will be working into my 60s. I have a dream of spending half the year in the UK and half at a holiday home in Spain. I certainly won’t be able to rely on the state pension when I am older, and I read that couples need £26,000 a year to live comfortably on as pensioners. Financially, I need to come up with a better plan for when my husband and I retire. If I want my dream of spending some time in Spain to come true, we’d need to save up enough money for a small holiday home or sell-up or downsize here in the UK. More importantly, however, we need a better nest egg and a bigger pension pot, as we certainly can’t depend on a lottery win.Want to take part in How I Manage My Money? Email [email protected]

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