Money Diary: A 65-Year-Old Retiree In Cornwall On A State Pension

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we're tracking every last penny.
This week, in honour of Life Begins At, our week celebrating women over 50, we're with a 65-year-old retiree in Cornwall...
"I’m living an idyllic life near the sea, after a terrible four-year illness. I live with my husband – we’re both retired and our two children have flown the nest.
I wake up each morning with the aim of making a difference to the lives of people less fortunate than myself, enjoying many voluntary/charity roles. My days are my own for the first time in my life and I maximise every hour.
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I feel fortunate to have reached pensionable age and manage on my £600 monthly amount, together with some interest on savings and repayments from my daughter of her debts to top it up to £1,000. We’re also very lucky not to have a mortgage for the first time in our lives, after downsizing two years ago.
If for any reason we require extra money for the purposes of holidays, for example, we will dip into our savings, believing that it’s far more important to capture time with our precious family and treat everyone to a special holiday, than to leave it to them in our wills."
Industry: Retired
Age: 65
Location: Penzance, Cornwall
Salary: £1,000/month, a mixture of pension (£150/week) and savings allowance.
Number of housemates: One, my husband
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: Council tax £130/month
Food: £250/month, includes entertainment
Utilities: £120/month
Transportation: Roughly £30/month on petrol (free buses)
Phone bill: £80 (includes mobile, TV/internet)
Savings contribution: £30
Other: £30 charity contribution
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Day One

6.30am: Wake up early and have a big cup of hot lemon, ginger and honey, along with a banana. Snooze and WhatsApp until 9. My husband is unwell, so start planning the day ahead without him!

10am: I have organised a lunch club, where a group of friends aim to get together as often as possible. Today I’ve booked a lunch for 10 of us (sadly minus my ill husband so we’re down to nine).

11am: First I need to get some food out of the freezer for supper party with best tennis friend, who I rarely see as she’s doing a master's degree away at university. Could do without a catering challenge after delicious lunch out, but so be it!

11.30am: Friend arrives to pick me and a neighbour up for our lunch – they’ve both been abandoned by their wives, in a healthy way, not uncommon behaviour around here!

12pm: We arrive at the restaurant. It’s actually a training restaurant, part of the local further education college, but the food is really exquisite and is £8 for two courses, or £10 for three courses. I order the very popular antipasti but request they mix the vegetarian with the meat so I get a little of each. Success! I follow with arancini, pesto mushroom, sauce vierge, broccoli, then chocolate pavé with orange ice cream. We order one bottle red, two bottles white, a beer and coffees. It comes to £18/person and we give £2 tip each. Never disappoints. £20

2pm: Get my lift to drop me in a village nearby so I can collect the all-important newspaper – my husband's daily ritual. He’s been waiting longer than usual for it, but oh well! Stride off at a pace climbing up the steep hill home, about a mile.

3.30pm: On with preparing the evening meal, which is beetroot, ginger, carrot and orange soup with smoked mackerel paté and fennel orange cucumber salad. Then gorgonzola stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon with roasted veg, followed by homemade coffee ice cream.

10.30pm: Supper goes off brilliantly after couple of hours' vital catch up (so busy talking, forgot to cook potatoes) – it’s been too long! End result: We’ve got our valuable friendship up to speed and the house is full of my favourite flowers!

Total: £20
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Day Two

7.30am: Always excited to wake up on a Friday. It’s Dawn Chorus – my choir of 45+ strong singers – drop-in, and feels like a big family! We meet in the beautiful café of a local sculpture park and sing from 9.30-11am. It’s £5 in the tin on arrival. There’s so much going on round here, mainly in the world of arts/music, regularly charity-driven.

The choir is a platform for numerous charity events, and my voice is usually the loudest, announcing fundraising events. Today I ask everyone to "turn your drawers out for the homeless", which I’ve done myself this week, delivering two large black plastic bags of winter clothes to our local office which distributes throughout the county to the homeless. They were absolutely delighted, as people are desperate, cold and wet, sleeping rough. I committed to spread the word, verbally and via Facebook, and offer my services to be a collection point.

11.15am: Much networking at coffee afterwards. I get a large oat milk cappuccino, £3. The café returns to normal business, and I’m the last to leave, as always, because I never want to – it’s my "escape location". I find it very nurturing; there’s a magical boardwalk through the woods and tropical plants, where you can spot the sculptures. There’s also a newly opened gallery, an architectural splendour built of green oak, a specialist succulents nursery and a shop selling interesting bespoke gifts made locally.

1pm: Home via supermarket, having phoned my husband to see what he feels like eating, if anything. I spend £31.11, seems a lot but I did buy a water filter, conscious that my husband needs to drink more. And two bottles of white wine increased the spend, which otherwise was mostly fruit and vegetables.

3pm: I don’t have time to finish my lunch as a singing friend arrives to see my garden. We sit outside in the lovely afternoon air, not realising it's chilly, talking heart-to-heart.

5.30pm: I liquidise the delicious hearty soup when my husband shows interest in a bowl and after an hour he heads off to have a beer with his mates, both local and visiting. I dish two cartons of soup up and head off delivering to best neighbours. What gratitude, but I refuse the invitation to go to listen to a local history talk nearby, in favour of being home alone – a rare privilege. Think about making my Christmas cake, but decide to do my money diary instead and phone a friend.

8.45pm: It's an uneventful supper, my husband doesn't want any so I just enjoy a bowl of goodness – my soup! I’ve also realised I’ve got a free day tomorrow, yippee, so it’s gardening here we come!

Total: £39.11
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Day Three

7am: Realise I need to address my husband’s illness, as it’s the weekend and he’s not much better. Start researching out of hours NHS and get through to a doctor and an appointment is made at 12.45 in our local hospital.

12.45pm: We see a young GP, efficient and professional. The NHS Urgent Care Service was amazing, and is surprisingly little known. We take a prescription to the pharmacy and buy cough/voice lozenges to help my ongoing chest condition. £4.45

2pm: Ham salad lunch and head out to garden in the cool, fresh but sunny air. Achieve jobs that have been on the list for weeks, including autumn tidying, planting bulbs underneath new plants – ever planning ahead!

5.15pm: Feeling cold and needing an early bath to get ready for evening out.

7.25pm: Leave for an evening wedding party where we used to live for 30 years. There’s a wonderful collection of friends from the past, so much chat down memory lane until my husband says he has to go home, not feeling well. We buy three glasses of wine, quite pricey at £17. Also, we put £30 cash in a card, wishing the newly wedded couple a long and happy life together. £47

10pm: Sad to have to leave a vibrant party early but grateful we’d made it, an uncertainty earlier in the day.

Total: £51.45
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Day Four

1.30am: Up with migraine from hell, not able to keep painkillers down. No sleep.

8-9.45am: Send messages/phone, making arrangements/apologies that I’m not able to make a couple of engagements today.

10am: After my husband gets up I manage to get two hours' sleep with help of painkillers.

3pm: My desire to eat a banana/grapes means my husband goes off shopping. While he’s out, a good friend pops by with a jolly bunch of flowers but she’s ill with pneumonia so I just talk to her through upstairs bedroom window briefly, as she's feeling exhausted. A true act of kindness and love.

4.15pm: Bananas/grapes delivered to my bedside. Just able to cope with the daylight, realising I’m missing a beautiful autumn day, I draw the curtains back. Send an exchange of messages, thanking my caring friends for their kindness and enjoying a wheatgrass smoothie I manage to make while I attend my flowers.

Total: £0 as been ill in bed all day
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Day Five

6.50am: Feeling stronger and a bit restless, I make tea while my husband sleeps. With Radio 4 on in the background, I do some emailing and later ring our doctor's surgery to enquire about hospital results. No news, ring back later. I also send a message to our son in Australia, and respond to a missed call from our daughter in London, she’s trying to sponge off our Sky TV subscription to access it from her home there.

10.15am: FaceTime call comes through from our son and his girlfriend, saying they wanted their smiling faces to cheer us up, which they do!

12pm: Decide to risk a blast of beautiful fresh air and walk up the mile-long hill. Hover over a box outside a cottage with sweet little selection of bags/hats – all for sale for £1! Don’t have money but a singing friend pops up and lends me some, so a simple woolly hat to fight the biting north wind. Money dropped through letterbox. Lovely way of shopping!

1pm: Cook a big brunch for myself having missed breakfast. Two eggs scrambled, grilled streaky bacon and grilled tomatoes, all of which I already had in the fridge.

1.45pm: I have amassed a collection of valuables to take to my friend who is an auctioneer, for free valuation. But struck the wrong day, as it’s a viewing day with a sale due tomorrow. So we politely oblige and view the numerous interesting items to be auctioned. There is a large collection of ceramics; a very pretty tea service, thrown locally, catches my eye.

2.45pm: Set off to supermarket, but only a very small shop. Buy two fancy ready meals, grapes, bananas and soft cheese. £17.95, paid by my husband.

3.45pm: Home in time to greet a dear old friend and his dog, for tea and mince pies. Much chat, he’s a fascinating person, but very lonely. I ask if he wants to stay longer and walk the dog in our village with me, but he declines. Relax and do a couple of hours messaging/googling and feel a surge of energy and purposefulness.

8pm: Hoover and mop the whole house and feel great sense of achievement.

8.30pm: For supper we have the same delicious fish pie and vegetables as yesterday, we enjoy it so much, after having both been off our food.

11.25pm: Time to give in to the day and retire to bed.

Total: £1
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Day Six

6.40am: Wake up but too early to offer my husband tea. Listen to Radio 4 for a while, before ringing the surgery as my husband is still unwell and make appointment with doctor for later.

8.20am: Make tea (lemon, ginger, honey) and have a banana each, alongside Radio 4. Relax until it’s time to rise at 10ish, dress ready for yoga later and catch a lift down the hill where my husband gets his newspaper, in order to stride up the hill home.

11.10am: Meet my husband in our village Quiet Garden, where he is delighting in a new shiny lawnmower, along with a man who manages the maintenance of our village’s open communal spaces. My husband raised £1,000 through generous donations for his recent 80th birthday (instead of gifts), funds of which were used to buy the new mower to maintain the gardens and churchyard. Two very happy chaps, with their delivery of a new toy!

Walk home for same brunch as yesterday via my neighbour, to invite him for supper tomorrow evening as he’s been alone for a week. He's delighted. Offer him a top up of soup, but he has enough for lunch today.

1pm: Off to weekly yoga, Iyengar, taught by one of the few advanced Iyengar practitioners in the country. I’ve been a loyal student in her classes for nearly 40 years! We do my favourite – backbends – as the basis of the hour and a half class of just seven pupils. Lucky us, held in a beautiful Georgian building dedicated to natural therapies. I realise I don’t have a purse so put an IOU note for £9 in the book, agreed by the teacher.

3.15pm: Walk down the town to do the weekly local shop of fruit/vegetables, important to me that they’re grown locally too. English strawberries and raspberries, four lemons, local bunched carrots. £4.78, using the emergency £5 note I keep inside the back cover of my mobile phone. (Note to self – replace when I get home.)

3.50pm: Arrive home to the surprise of my husband, early. I make him tea and lemon ginger honey for me, with a crumpet/orange. Do a few kitchen chores and settle down to relax, listening to some music as my husband departs for his doctor’s appointment. Receive a call from his sister, a lengthy chat, as she was seeking my culinary advice.

Do some important lengthy emails and messages, thanking family and friends for their generosity on my husband’s 80th birthday.

8.45pm: Supper, a deluxe ready meal – lasagne and vegetables – not quite as enjoyable as their fish pie though.

1.25am: Oh crikey, where’s the time gone? My husband went bed-wards hours ago, but I do like my own company and space at each end of the day!

Total: £4.78 (£9 IOU)
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Day Seven

5am: Wide awake! Pour a drink of water and take a couple of painkillers to help general aches. Too early to get a banana methinks. Attempt sleep – better plan!

7.30am: Awoken by caring friend/fellow migraine sufferer enquiring about my head. Then a knock on the door, Western Power asking if we have a transformer in our back garden. I answer him through the upstairs bedroom window. Another beautiful autumn morning! Then my neighbour rings to enquire whether we have a power cut too.

8am: Downstairs to start the rhythm of morning life – a banana each and tea. Cut up fresh pineapple for chilling for supper tonight.

9am: Long lazy bath and hair wash before I head off to farmers' market in crisp morning sunshine, arriving first, so help set up tables. Coffee £2. No cake. £1 for bag of freshly picked watercress from local stream. Delicious. Locals gather at the farmers' market and there’s always much chat and networking. I unexpectedly won eight tickets in an auction at the local pub for a guided walk of the historic town nearby, so just seeing if anyone wants to join and perhaps make a day of it with lunch beforehand. Saunter home with friends and chat to neighbours on way. The sun is as warm as a summer’s day!

12pm: Cook myself same delicious grilled breakfast, make smoothie out of free windfall apples from the market, with ginger, honey, zest of orange/lemon. Yummy!

12.45pm: Got so immersed in planting that I missed the start of talk in church about its architecture. I go along but quit at the tea break, as didn’t feel like making polite conversation, preferring gardening in advance of preparing supper for neighbour.

4pm: A friend pops by with her three tiny children, she has a business selling hand-loomed hammam towels, which we help out with by storing in our garage. I help her to load up, as her mail order business is really busy.

6.15pm: Stop gardening and start preparing evening meal, after hanging washing on the line. Chicken thighs, jacket potatoes and vegetables with my homemade citrus apple blackberry jelly. Fresh fruit for pudding with my homemade berry coulis. All ready for when our guest, our neighbour, arrives at 7pm. Starters casually served in the lounge, crisp biscuits with soft French cheese, baby tomatoes and cucumber.

10pm: Successful meal over and pudding swiftly enjoyed, and our friend departs!

Total: £3
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The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £78.89
Entertainment: £5
Clothes/Beauty: £1
Travel: £0
Other: £34.45

Total: £119.34
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