Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

Squeeze panel: Stuart Kidman

Stuart and Holly Kidman
Age: 27
Job: Sub-editor
Salary: 20,000 per annum
Stuart Kidman is 27, from Banbury in Oxfordshire, and works as a sub-editor on a regional newspaper.

He's married to Holly (right), and they are both the proud parents of William, who was born in October.

This year has seen them, become parents of their first child, move house and sell one of their cars to bring their monthly costs down.

They are preparing for the time when Holly's maternity pay goes down.

DECEMBER

Over the course of the year my wife and I have moved house, dropped to being a one-car family and become parents to our first child. This has resulted in drastic peaks and troughs in our spending habits.

After moving and increasing the cost of our monthly mortgage payments, it became necessary to sell one of our two cars - and since we were living closer to our workplaces, this was perfectly practical.


I'm optimistic about next year, as things should be quite comfortable once both of us are working again

On the one hand, we were saving money by not paying for fuel, but paying more to our mortgage lender soon cancelled this out.

In addition, we saved money by switching to new utility providers, but were again affected by gas and electricity price rises.

In the week our son William was born, we learnt that we were being denied access to our life-savings which were locked away in the failed Icelandic bank Icesave.

After his birth, this couldn't have mattered any less to us, but gladly we got the money back and reinvested it elsewhere.

As far as 2008 goes, I could do without next year being the same. However, in 2009 I'm expecting the belt to tighten as my wife's maternity pay dwindles down to statutory level.

Thankfully we are well prepared, and have a solid plan in place to get through the next few months.

The downturn means I won't be getting a pay rise next year so that is a negative point for a start, but worse things could have happened given the state of the economy.

If I'm being honest, I'm optimistic about next year, as things should be quite comfortable once both of us are working again.

In the meantime, and in the run up to Christmas, we've had a set plan of who we're buying gifts for and how much we are spending on them. This has been useful, not only because we are always aware of how much money we've spent, but also because it means we could spread the cost of the festive season over two or three months.


NOVEMBER

Stuart Kidman says financially November has not been too bad

So far this month has been pretty good.

Financially it has not been as much of a squeeze.

This is the first month in a while where we have not had to worry about our outgoings so much.

Our savings were invested in the collapsed Icesave bank and we are still waiting to get our money back.

We know that we will get the money back, but the issue is where are we going to put the money when we get it.


OCTOBER

We have just had possibly the most up and down week of our lives.

Our baby arrived safe and well on Thursday, we have called him William and he is the best thing in the world to us right now. This helped us to put the financial worries on the back burner for a while, and just to concentrate on being a good mum and dad.

At the beginning of the week, we were being told we couldn't get to our savings as they were locked up in failed internet bank Icesave.

By the end of the week, we were parents!

Our baby arrived safe and well on Thursday, we have called him William and he is the best thing in the world to us right now. This helped us to put the financial worries on the back burner for a while, and just to concentrate on being a good mum and dad.

Being a parent enables you to put things in perspective, too. We were quite concerned when we realised that most of our savings had been affected by the Icesave collapse and we have kept up to date with all the advice on how and when we can get the money back.

But, if we were asked if it really mattered to us at the moment, we would say no - for obvious reasons.

INFLATION CALCULATOR
This month's personal inflation: 1.7%

Other than that, things are going quite well. Our food budget manages to keep us well stocked up over the month and we rarely use our petrol budget unless we need to make a long journey or two.

Holly gets generous maternity pay, so the effect of us losing some of her salary won't be felt for a few weeks yet.

I've now got some time off work, which will be a great help not only in caring for William, but for sorting out all the things that come into play when you have a baby, like child's benefit, trust funds, tax credits etc. We'll probably be well versed on all of these by next month.

SEPTEMBER

INFLATION CALCULATOR
This month's personal inflation: 4.3%

It was another long month waiting for payday to come around, but in the end you get by.

On the mortgage front, this month we've taken our repayment mortgage down to an interest only one. The saving (about 140) is pitiful, compared to the interest being charged, but every little helps and the extra cash in our pockets will help us while Holly is on maternity leave.

Her maternity pay is better than expected and has helped me put together a clear picture of how much we'll be getting each month until she returns to work. Plus, she had a pay rise, so things are looking up.

Thanks to a share option scheme at work I'll soon be able to get some money I have been saving from my monthly wage paid back to me in a lump sum. This will be very handy for last minute purchases before our baby is born, especially since we'd like to have a camcorder to record the event.

In terms of our monthly budget, our gas and electricity prices have gone up, and although we don't use our car especially often, we have had to put quite a bit of fuel in after a couple of long-distance trips.

That basically means we overspent last month, as well as shelling out a little more than expected on food and supplies.

Still, we save a strict amount of money and we seem to be sticking to that quite well. It means that big one-off payments like a vet's bill or a car repair aren't so much of a shock to the system when they come about - the money is already there waiting to cover them.

Finally, it will be our fourth wedding anniversary, so maybe for one day we'll say 'blow the budget' and treat ourselves!

AUGUST
WEEKLY STAPLE FOOD BILLS
Bread 3
Pasta 6
Dairy (eggs/ cheese/ yoghurt) 12
Cereals 12

It has been an interesting month. A holiday helped us to relax and allowed us to treat ourselves for a while. But naturally with the expense of going away the inevitable purse-tightening soon followed. We tried to rein in our spending for the final two weeks of the month, and we just about scraped by.

Time is ticking away now and we are just three months away from the arrival of our first child. So far we have bought very little ourselves and instead have been lucky enough to inherit a lot of items or have them bought for us as gifts. There are still a few essential items left to get, including a cot and more clothes, but we are nearly there and the impact on our pockets has not been too bad.

Recently the announcements over gas and electricity prices have left me a little concerned. Though our supplier has not announced any price increases yet, I am keeping an open mind about capping our fuel costs if I can.

As well as that, I will soon re-budget our finances to take into account Holly's reduction in pay when she goes on maternity leave. This is the point I am most worried about since her normal pay is so much more than we can expect to get while she is off work. We will definitely have to make some serious cuts. Until then though, we seem to be doing ok.

JULY

Having recently moved house, our budgets are still balancing themselves out. The major difference is that we have sold one of our cars and make far fewer car journeys, obviously resulting in us spending less on fuel.

The car sale was made largely to offset the increase in our mortgage payments, which are now up by about 200 a month.

Despite switching to cheaper providers for our utilities, the increases in their costs have wiped out any money we would have saved.

The cost of food has also affected our spending, and we often try to buy a brand lower when in the supermarkets or, even better, shop online to make sure we get exactly what we need and no more.

All our spending is very strictly budgeted and includes trying to save as much as possible, though we take certain large 'one-off' costs from our savings and don't include them in the month-by-month budget.

We are expecting our first child in October and expect to have to drastically revise our spending to include all the related costs of looking after a baby. This is bound to have a massive impact on what we consider to be the 'bare essentials'.



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