My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Maura Hannon from Switzerland records her spending over a week and shares tips for saving.
Maura is 47. She lives with her husband, Martin, and three kids, Helena, 14, Flynn, 12, and Dylan, 11. She is an Irish-Australian who moved to Switzerland from Australia 15 years ago. She runs her own communication services business in the German and French bilingual city of Biel/Bienne.
She recently went head-to-head with another My Money blogger, Somi Ifeh in Nigeria, on World Business Report. You can listen to Maura talk about what she spent her money on this week here.
Maura’s week: Hot mineral spring baths, English lessons and chilli mussels
I’m the last out of the house and take the bus down to the pool. I buy my ticket with an app that rewards use with future price offsets, in combination with another Swiss concession, so I buy all public transport at half price. Cost: CHF [Swiss francs] 2.30, ($2.35, £1.80).
The best deal for me is to buy swimming classes in lots of 12 because they don’t expire, and I can fit in going to several different class times according to my changing working week. Cost: CHF159
I catch the bus home after errands and eat the lunch I made in my weekly Sunday cook-up. Cost: CHF2.30
School kids normally come home for lunch for two hours, but today no one is home. Helena takes the lunch I made for her because she has an optional Italian class. Dylan eats a hot school lunch Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Flynn is disabled and he sleeps in an apartment at his school from Monday to Thursday. We are billed the costs for the boys monthly.
I work from home, make fresh focaccia bread to go with the homemade veggie soup and then drive to my orchestra rehearsal. To help learn French I play in a French-speaking orchestra which is a slower way to learn, but cheaper and more fun than classes as it costs me CHF100/year.
Total spend: CHF163.60 ($167.15; £127.95)
I was determined to send off a client project before lunch – which made me run a little late! I meet Helena and four other girls in my office in town for lunch today. We eat together and then I teach them English. I invoice the parents for the cost of lunch and lessons by semester. The bakery invoices me monthly.
I normally walk to the office on a Tuesday, but because I was running late I drove and so I had to pay for parking. CHF4.00
At 16:00 I drive Dylan to ice hockey training 25 minutes away in a town called Münchenbuchsee. Because I am in the neighbourhood, I take the opportunity to buy a few items I know are cheapest at a farm supply store. CHF 37.20
Food costs are one of our biggest outgoings and I use the menu planning app Pepperplate to help. We do one large shop a week and then I try to keep shopping during the week to a minimum. The app helps to keep impulse buying down, as well as reducing food waste. But we are out of bread and eggs and I have to bring dessert for lunch tomorrow. I pick these things up at the local supermarket on the way home. CHF9.30.
Total spend: CHF50.50 ($51.59; £39.49)
I worked from home again in the morning. We drove to a friend’s house for lunch when the kids finished school. Learning languages here is really important and for over a year Helena, Dylan and I have been meeting with a French-speaking family for lunch on a Wednesday to eat and learn together. School kids in Switzerland never have school on Wednesday afternoons so we eat together, and then after lunch we talk, play games and the kids learn new words. Cost: shared lunch costs/free language lessons.
The rest of the afternoon is spent alternating between driving kids to and from sport, helping with school work, violin practice, housework and cooking. For dinner I blend up the soup leftovers with extra tomato paste to make a pasta sauce.
Total spend: CHF0.00 ($0.00; £0.00)
Electricity costs halve between 20:00 and 08:00 where we live, so we try to run the washing machine and the dishwasher overnight. They both then need to be unloaded first thing in the morning.
I worked again from home in the morning and the kids came home for lunch today. The kids love pizza and it uses up the last bits of cheese and veggies in the fridge.
Thursday evenings between 18:30 and 20:00, my husband and I have 90 minutes together child and work-free! We have made it a ritual to have a drink out together on a Thursday so we meet at a local bar. I order a beer, a glass of wine and a small pot of hummus and three slices of bread to share. The total cost was CHF18.50, but it is normal here to round up, so I paid a flat CHF20.
Total spend: CHF20 ($20.44; £15.65)
Flynn comes home today. He has a number of chronic digestion issues and has a heavily restricted diet including gluten and dairy-free, as well as some vegetables like garlic, onions and broccoli. I try to buy and prepare most of the meals for his weekend today. I usually buy a whole chicken for a couple of his meals, as I use the bones to make a chicken stock.
We mostly have soup on Monday evenings after a big Sunday cook-up. But today we are seriously low on food at home so I will have to do a shop. I take an hour or so to start preparing the meal menu for next week using the menu planning app.
I won’t have time to do the weekly shop today because I have to be home between 17:00 and 18:00 as Flynn comes home by bus. This afternoon Dylan has ice hockey training in Biel and there is a supermarket in the complex, so I bring him early and pop into the supermarket to get a few things for dinner.
The kids have asked for homemade hamburgers and chips for dinner so I buy mince and oven fries. I also buy yoghurts, eggs and bread for breakfast, including gluten-free bread for Flynn – and some potato crisps because it is Friday.
I run out of time to cook a whole chicken for Flynn, so I pull a cooked chicken pack out of the freezer and use the last of the potatoes to make his chips.
Total spend: CHF59.10 ($20.44; £46.26)
Helena and Martin are off early for sporting events, and Flynn, Dylan and I walk downtown after breakfast to run a few errands, but more as an excuse to take Flynn for a long walk. Hairdressing services are quite expensive here so I buy some hair dye for me at a cosmetics store which is the most competitive for prices.
I also keep coupons to use here and instead of paying CHF8.95, I pay CHF5.35. I also cut Flynn’s hair today. Flynn does not like having his hair cut and after a couple of bad experiences when he was little, I taught myself how to do it. It takes a lot of time and sometimes you have to do it in shifts, but he now looks a bit more groomed.
The whole family meet up in town and I duck into a small supermarket to grab something for lunch as everyone is starving. The kids have gnocchi and napoletana sauce, and Martin and I love chilli mussels which have come in fresh this morning. To make the soup I have bought a jar of passata and some spring onions. Total cost CHF22.20
The supermarket is really busy this afternoon, and bulk food shopping is one of my least favourite chores. One of the reasons I like the menu planning app is that I can generate a shopping list that is ordered by section to make the process as efficient as possible. As I shop, I tick the items off the list on my phone.
The total cost of the shopping is CHF241.80 plus 90 centimes for parking.
Total spend: CHF270.25 ($276.17; £211.48)
Dylan is picked up early this morning to play an ice hockey match by another family. We share the training and match driving with another family as the time commitment can be intense. Martin will work abroad this week so Flynn and I drop him at the train station.
Flynn loves to swim and so he and I go to a hot mineral spring bath. Although the entry is more expensive than a normal pool there are two reasons why we go fairly regularly. First the water temperature is very warm which is important for Flynn as he gets cold very quickly. Second the baths cater well for disabled people, and as his carer I do not have to pay entry for an adult of CHF38, just the cost for him of CHF16.00.
A few hours later, the kids and I have a quiet afternoon watching a movie together, cooking and doing violin practice. It starts snowing so we go to the park and have a nice time playing on the swings and slides in the snow.
I have cooked up a lot of the produce from the shopping yesterday to help the meal preparation for the week – ready for the show to start again tomorrow.
Total spend: CHF16.00 ($16.35; £12.52)
How does Maura feel about her week?
This is the sort of week I try to have to balance out the more expensive ones, which include buying clothes and shoes for growing kids, and buying lots of snacks because I am not organised.
The splurge this week was the drink with my husband and a nice lunch on Saturday. Eating out here is expensive and Saturday lunch in a restaurant for five people can easily cost CHF150. The last week of the month here is also expensive because the bills for kids, health insurance and the credit card all roll in. We also have to make sure we save because we are invoiced quarterly for taxes and the mortgage.
Sometimes it does feel like a bit of fuss and nonsense with all the coupons, but it does help because the supermarket money buys at least two pairs of sports shoes and equipment a year.
Total weekly spend: CHF579.45 ($592.41; £454.26)
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