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A woodland worker on £2.5ka month worrying about bills and ‘affording a second child’

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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 John Sweeney, 35, who lives in Blandford, Dorset, with his wife Anna and their one-year-old daughter, Onora. John is a skilled, self-employed woodland worker.

monthly budget

Income: £2,000-£2,500

Outgoings: Mortgage repayment £457; Groceries and toiletries £450; New boiler cost £212; Life insurance £43; Home care policy £30; TV license £13; House insurance £25; Netflix £9.99; Lottery £10; Accounting software £28.60; Petrol £100; Leisure £50; Savings and investments £10

TOTAL: £1,438.59

My wife, who works part-time, pays monthly for car insurance, car tax and breakdown cover, council tax, phone, utilities and broadband bills.

After leaving university I worked as a healthcare assistant with the NHS for several years, and then became a rehabilitation assistant for social services. At the time I had no idea the line of work I am now in even existed. I eventually found out about a coppicing apprenticeship, which I did part time, while building up other work around it.

It has taken me seven years to build up work contacts and the skills needed to do what I do now. Day to day, I work in a few private small woodlands and am cutting hazel coppice. As the year rolls on, I will be doing more young tree care and formative pruning work. I earn between £2,000 and £2,500 a month at present.

My worries about money have generally stemmed from me not always taking enough time to keep an accurate view of my accounts. I also always need to ensure I put aside enough cash to cover my tax bill each year. Fortunately, this year my parents paid for me to see a bookkeeper and to enroll on Xero [an online accounting system]which has proved very helpful.

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When it comes to my personal finances, I have only ever had two current accounts in my life, and one was with the Co-operative Bank as I liked its ethical policies. I have a cash Isa and a stocks and shares Isa with Triodos Bank. Each has about £1,000 in.

I try to feed funds from my cash Isa into the stocks and shares Isa when I can. I don’t check regularly to see what sort of return I am getting on my money. But I trust Triodos to use my money for good and to facilitate projects and businesses that are not solely driven by profit, but benefit people and the planet.

I like the fact Triodos often invests in community-based projects. I wouldn’t want my money used for things like social media or gambling, and trust Triodos to squeeze every ounce of positive influence it can out of my cash.

I also have one Vanguard fund which I put a £500 lump sum into for my pension. I’d like to be able to start saving £100 a month into my Vanguard account again at some point. I also have around £1,000 tied up in Premium Bonds, but I’ve yet to win more than £25 from them.

Everything I do, like saving with an ethically focused provider such as Triodos, having a woodburner and working as a woodland worker, is aligned to my beliefs and the notion that we have a planet we must work with and not plunder.

While I am generally a saver, in recent years I’ve had little disposable cash to play with. My wife and I have spent a fair amount on home improvements, and now there’s our little baby to look after. I don’t really splurge cash on anything luxurious at the moment, but I do enjoy coffee and cake out with my family and friends. We also grow a few vegetables in our small garden, which sometimes helps to curb our spending on groceries.

In terms of financial goals, I would like to create a stable environment for my daughter to grow up in and make sure we can provide her with opportunities and experiences that create happy moments and memories.

My wife and I are anxious about how we will be able to afford all our bills if they go up much more. We are not sure whether to have a second child in light of the steep rise in the cost of living. Being self-employed, however, I can fortunately choose to work one or two weekends a month to boost our income.



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