Money Diary: A Secondary School Teacher In Rural Scotland On 41k

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: "I’m a 31-year-old secondary school teacher living in rural northeast Scotland with my wife, M, and our 2.5-year-old puppy, A. We have been together for almost eight years and married for three and a half. After some time out of our careers to travel (M is a doctor), we settled in NE Scotland where M got a specialist training post which will take her through to being a consultant. This meant that we could buy a house and we are currently trying to live the country dream with our wee cottage that we bought in 2019. Somewhere in the future is starting a family and we are very fortunate to be entitled to NHS funding to support this. 
 
In general, we don’t go out all that much (even before COVID) and so try to save a fair bit each month. We both see our money as shared and are happy to pool all our savings and pay for each other when out and about. In 2019 we were very lucky to be gifted £50,000 by my grandfather as a kind of ‘pre-death’ inheritance. This allowed us to put in an offer on a dream cottage, knowing that we would have enough money to make the improvements we needed/wanted (around £36,000 in total). We have slowly been doing up the cottage (replacing the windows, kitchen and bathroom, redecorating and making massive changes in the garden) and are happy to spend money to make our house a home. We can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel as we now only have carpets, new doors and a new wood burner to buy (although lockdown 2.0 has put a spanner in the works in terms of getting tradespeople in). I cannot wait for everything to be finished!
 
When my grandfather passed away (his will was settled last May) we were flabbergasted to receive £133,000. This is an enormous amount of money and we feel that it is very important to look after it – we know that we are very lucky to be in this position and want to make sure that we use it to future-proof our life. All this pressure (put on myself really) massively stressed me out as I had no clue about how to keep it responsibly. After deciding that we don’t really understand investments enough to go down that route (and me being worried about the ethical/sustainability implications of some investments) we decided to buy a property to let and are currently in the process of closing on a flat in the city that M works in. We won’t have time to manage tenants ourselves so are happy to pay a letting agency to do this for us, even if this reduces the rental return. Hopefully over time this flat will prove to be a safe investment. We plan to use the rental return to help overpay the mortgage on our cottage and we used some of the inheritance to do this last year (overpayment of £21,000). 
 
M and I are very similar in our outlook on life: we both love walking, gardening and generally being outdoors. We also try to do our best to look after the planet and stop climate change. I can be a bit obsessive about being eco and M kindly supports me with this. We are both vegetarians (and were before we met each other – ideal!) and we try to grow as much as we can in our garden. We also try to reduce our plastic consumption by avoiding single-use plastics and getting staples like cleaning and laundry products, dried food and herbs etc. from our local plastic-free shop. The furniture we buy is almost always secondhand or reclaimed wood and I have massively tried to reduce my purchasing of unnecessary products and clothes. I try to only buy clothes from companies which are actively sustainable and/or ethical and I now only buy clothes that will last." 
 
Industry: Secondary education 
Age: 31
Location: Northeast Scotland
Salary: £41,412
Paycheque amount: £2,143 (after deductions).
Number of housemates: One: M, my wife (and A, our dog).
 
Monthly Expenses 
 
I’ve included all of our joint expenses as M and I split things pretty evenly and see all of our money as shared. M’s take-home pay is around £2,900 a month.
 
Housing costs: £1,500 mortgage for a three-bedroom detached cottage. Our actual mortgage payments are £937 but we started overpaying in March to speed up paying it off. We will continue to do this for as long as we can and aim to use savings/return from the flat to top up the overpayment to the maximum penalty-free amount of 10% each year. If my maths is right this means that we could be mortgage-free in about six years.
Loan payments: £165 student loan.
Utilities: From my account: council tax £184, landline phone £30 (our cottage is in a signal blackspot so this is vital), house insurance £742 paid annually. From M’s account: internet £40 (for an EE wireless dongle as you can’t get broadband here – downside of rural living), pet insurance £164 paid annually. From our joint account: Vitality mortgage insurance £51, electricity £70 for our winter months (this decreases in the summer). We are with So Energy as they are fully renewable – this offsets the guilt of being on oil for our heating (another countryside drawback). Oil £350 for a 1,000l tank (we go through about three or four a year but it’s been more when I’ve been working from home). Emptying the septic tank ~£280 every two-ish years.
Transportation: Petrol/diesel for both my car and M’s is around £200 a month (M’s commute is 50 minutes each way). Tax for both is £250 and is paid annually by whoever opens the bill, as are MOTs and any repairs (this year this was over £1,000 as my car needed a lot of work). Multi-car insurance, with business and personal injury cover and breakdown recovery, is paid annually and was £1,130 at the start of April.
Phone bill: M pays for both of our mobile bills: £42 combined. 
Savings? Around £130,000 in several savings accounts. £95,000 - £100,000 of this will be spent on the flat purchase, legal fees, upgrading costs and legal requirements/checks to get the flat ready for letting. As well as overpaying the mortgage we also try to save as much as we can each month and will use some of this for finishing the cottage renovations.
Other: Joint: £200 for our dog walker (who walks A for an hour each day as we are out of the house from 8am until around 5.30/6 most weekdays), £32 for Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime, dog training (in non-COVID times) £40 for five sessions, tick and worming treatments for A ~£50 every three-ish months, food for A ~£70 every few months (we buy organic food which is climate-friendly and in recyclable packaging – this costs a bit more but is worth it). Personal additional extras: Trade union membership £14, donation to Tree Aid (empowering women and helping stop climate change!) £20, rugby club membership £7.50, charges for Triodos accounts £6, iCloud extra storage £2, annual teaching registration £65 and annual teachers' association for my specific subject £35, annual Quizlet and Mentimeter subscriptions £112 (I use both when I teach and couldn’t cope with the limitations on the free accounts, especially during the lockdowns).

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