Thursday, 2 January 2014

Not The Most Exciting Blog You're Ever Going To Read...

If you hate facts and figures, budgets and penny-pinching turn off now.

This blog is just about what we have spent during 2013. Not only do we log every engine hour and petrol generator minute, but we also make a note of every penny we spend - even down to the £2 for a charity raffle in Market Harborough at the end of the summer. Yes we even took 'the' book away with us on holiday. As well as an aide memoir in the future I thought this post may be useful for anyone thinking of making the jump onto a boat but don't know how much an average Joe would spend.

It's not that we (I) have some morbid fascination or OCD condition regarding figures, its simple, if we keep to a very strict budget we can carry on cruising if we don't we can't - nuff said.

I have excluded a couple of items from this blog, our endowments and mortgages, house and personal insurances. So here we go...

    1.   Diesel - £664.99 (av per month £55.42) 

As well as chugging us along for about 446 miles through 309 locks there is also a bit of power generating in there as well as any proper cooking. Our boat is gas free and has a domestic electric hob and oven and a fairly thirsty 50bhp Beta marine (2203) engine. We do have diesel powered central heating and hot water (also fed from the engine) but we rarely use it (20 hours in 2013). The tank is about 35% full at the moment. I've increased the budget for diesel for 2014 due to the fact that Adam and Adrian nearly went further on their three week holiday than we went in nine months (a tad embarrassing)

    2.  Coal - £423.75 (av per month £35.31)

The boat is never cold in the front half and rarely worse than chilly at the back. As of January 2nd we also have 12 bags in stock. We could have quite happily spent less over the final quarter but there was little fallen wood to be found on the approaches to Birmingham. We have mainly used excel throughout.

    3.   Petrol - £132.64 (av per month £11.05)
We use petrol for power generating using our old Honda EX1000 and for our little chain saw. This figure includes £45 for some petrol for the Mazda Bongo before we sold it in February but excludes fuel for hire vehicles. A truer figure should be about £8.80 per month. If we buy new batteries during 2014 (I suspect a couple of them are pretty dead) we will need to charge for longer. Back when the batteries were new charging per hour raised the %age charge by 10% as a very rough rule of thumb, now it's closer to 18%.

    4.   Loo Pump out - £78 (av per month £6.50) 
We use a two loo system (it works well for us). All the nasties in the pump out so we don't have to get up close and personal and liquids only in a small porta loo for elsan disposal (and if an emergency, the corner of a farmers field and diluted with a couple of buckets of canal water). When we first moved aboard I was expecting to be pumping out about every three weeks at an average of £15 (£260 pa) so we have spent a lot less than anticipated. 

    5.   Internet - £228 (av per month £19) 
We have used a Mi Fi on the Three network for the last two years giving 15gb of data usage (tested at home for a few months before we moved aboard). The contract has now finished and with the demise of my nokia (it doesn't like canal water) I have changed to a more pricey Three contract including a Samsung S4 with unlimited data and internet tethering to connect the laptop, ipod, and google nexus 7 to. The other advantage to the new S4 is that it is able to connect to the TV to stream programs via iPlayer (and similar) and any downloaded videos. 

    6.   Mobile Phones - £296.82 (av per month 24.74)
We have had two phones running on the Tesco network providing all we have needed in 2013. The new phone is now insured!

    7.   Shopping - £1844.10 (av per month £153.68)
This really is just food shopping. We rarely buy alcohol on the food budget tending to prefer to make a bit of a doo of going out for a drink now and again instead. It is well under half what we used to spend when we lived in bricks and mortar but we have a better and more varied diet.

    8.   Other shopping - £674.89 (av per month £56.24)
We tend to buy non food items in budget shops like Wilkinsons. There is always a bit that is spent in Super Drug and Boots. Other things that come out of this budget are things like my monthly prescription, new phone case, a Viewranger map data and the rare item of new clothing.

    9.    Pub + - £1360.59 (av £113.38)
Not strictly just for the pub but really anything that we would/could/should have already on the boat. So yes, it is the odd few pints but also restaurants, cafe's, takeaways and even a sarnie or bottle of water that we have bought out and about.

    10.  Entertainment - £337.58 (av per month £31.47)
Well we couldn't spend time in London without at least a few shows. Other inclusions were a firework display and a few more regular things like cinema, game apps and even charity shop books. 

    11.   Gifts - £453.04 (av per month £37.75)
We had to be a lot more strict in 2013 than we had ever been previously. Christmas 2012 came as a shock, we had never really budgeted for birthdays and Christmases (there was rarely a need) and as the receipts started edging towards four figures we realised that a change of attitude was needed to maintain our lifestyle. As with most things it's the little things that always seem to add up, cards and stamps will probably change for E-cards in 2014.

    12.  Travel - £892.09 (av per month £74.34)
Keeping the Mazda Bongo was a chore as well as an expensive and unnecessary luxury and the cost per mile rose and rose as we used 'Snoop' less and less. Of course transport in London, whilst great value for money, took its toll, but vehicle hire for visiting family and the odd hospital visit is pricey by the time petrol is added in. The average cost for a short weekend away is about £90. We rarely get buses, they are a rip off, it is usually far cheaper to wait until we are close to a train station and use trains (even more so now Deb has 30% off). We have had to trim the budget for 2014 and don't anticipate hiring a car more frequently than once per quarter.

    13.   Unexpected Costs - £323.31 (av per month £26.94)
There have been a few extra costs throughout the year that cropped up. A few bits associated with our tenant leaving that there wasn't a budget for like a month or so for council tax for a vacant property and some associated tracked post. I even had an income tax bill from recalculations for a company car I used to have. 

    14.   CaRT License - £884 (av per month £73.67)
Unfortunately CaRT expect some money from us for using their waterways. To get a small discount on our 60ft boat the fee is payable up front and in advance so we have to put aside the £74 per month. In fact we put aside nearly half of our net income towards yearly paid costs, and some of the following categories that are variable.

    15.   Boat Insurance - £240 (av per month £20) 
Although we haven't had to make a claim we are happy with the service received over the last year from Collidge and Partners insurance firm. Any questions have been answered via email promptly and we have a small no claims discount for the next period due in January

    16.   Boat Maintenance - £883.71 (av £73.67)
Everything from buying rope to make fenders, to a stock of varnish and rather expensive paint and lots of wood for various projects, but not including oil changes and blacking. This category also includes replacement of serviceable items, things that we have had but need replacing like padlocks, a food grade water hose, material and foam for new curtains and porthole bungs and petrol containers. I put more than we use aside with the goal of building up a certain level of reserve. It wont be enough for a shiny new Beta engine (about 6k before fitting) but will stretch to a lot of repairs that I am not capable of, unfortunately any thing bigger will involve ISA bashing.  

    17.   Oil Changes - £215.70 (av £17.98)
In addition to the main boat maintenance I also put aside £20 per month just for oil and filter changes. We do the servicing ourselves roughly every 200 engine hours.

    18.   Hull Blacking - £396 (av per month £13.20)
The average is over 30 months but we put aside £15 so can bring the next hull black closer to two yearly if needed. We took the lazy way out and got Debdale Marina to do the whole job, which we think was a great price (£6.60 per foot including lift out, pressure washing and two and a bit coats of black) for a great service and will most likely use them again unless we need to be out of the water for longer doing other jobs.

    19.   Marina Berthing - £486 (av per month £40.50)
A bit over our intended budget (by £90) but we hadn't intended to stay for three months in B1 central Birmingham (mainly because Sally Ash head of CaRT boating said we couldn't). We also had a short stop off at Mercia for a few days which was well worth the £10 per night. The £5 we spent on electric was easily enough to wash all of our summer wardrobe before vac packing for storage and freshen all the winter stuff once it came out of the vac packs. There was nothing on board made of cloth that hadn't been cleaned, even the rags.

There you have it, all told about £10,974 or £915 per month. And a lot of forums and boating 'advice' websites say living on a boat is as at least as expensive as living in bricks and mortar accommodation.

If you managed to read through all that here is a little bonus just to remember it's all about the boating really.

Boat in the shade to keep cool or in the sun for the solar panels - life is now full of these tough decisions


  1. Strangely enough I did find that very interesting. Your expendture is very close to some predicted costs we calculated a while back. Good to see we weren't too far apart.

  2. Hi both, hope you had a good Christmas and transition into the new year. Can't wait to get the next year's cruising in so I can compare figures :-)

  3. I kept a similar financial log for the first two years we lived aboard and we weren't too far off the mark. It certainly focuses the mind when you note down every little expenditure.
    Happy New Year to you both x

    1. Hi Yvonne and Roger, happy new year to you both. Narrow boating certainly helps focus the finances. Maybe they should take it a little more seriously at schools.

  4. Hi,

    One of the best and most interesting blog posts I have read in ages, and I read a lot. Thank you for taking the time to share it. Are you ok that I link to it when I next blog.....

    Nev NB Percy

    1. Hi Nev, glad you like it! Yes you can link/copy/quote the blog no probs. Have a great 2014 :-)

  5. Hi James and Debbie
    Some really interesting facts and costings, I dare not total ours up it might frighten us to death.
    Can't believe that us Oldies have done more miles and locks than you youngsters in just a few of the summer months!!
    Look forward to catching up with you at the launch of Smiffbob.
    Bob, June and Jimmy
    nb Autumn Myst

    1. Look forward to meeting up again at the end of the month Bob.

  6. Hello James and Debbie, I came here from Nev's blog - this is a very interesting breakdown, thank you. We would have a much bigger mooring bill, but no pump-out or petrol costs...

    1. Hi Halfie, I guess everyone's expenditure is going to be different to some expense. Costing for a possible marina berth there is a bit of a ballance up as we would spend less on fuel, particularly being a gas free boat. Electricity in Mercia is only about 12p per kwh, bargain

  7. Have you had this email from CRT? They are supposed to have sent it to every boater currently in the Birmingham area but the BCNS are passing it around as lots of their members haven't been included. It might be of interest to you - and there's a free buffet :-)

    The Canal & River Trust’s chief executive, Richard Parry, is hosting a series of open meetings for boaters and other waterway users. The meetings are a good chance to informally air views or have a chat with Richard about any local or national issues.

    I would like to invite you to come along to the meeting from 6pm on Thursday 23 January in Birmingham. The meeting will take place at The Bond, 180 - 182 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 5SE, and a light buffet will be provided. The meeting is expected to last for a couple of hours. We are sending these invitations to boaters living or currently cruising in the Birmingham area and, while everyone is very welcome, Richard is particularly keen to reach boaters who don’t normally go to user groups or other meetings with the Trust and have not had the chance to talk to us face to face.

    Please email me if you would like to come along, and please do feel free to extend the invitation to other boaters who may be interested. I hope you can make it.

    Kind regards,

    Fran Read

  8. Hi Yvonne, yup weve had that one. Free buffet, we'll definitely be there!

  9. James and Debbie,
    I have a similar blog post under construction. We log our every penny too. I can't wait to get the figures together to compare!
    Well done.

  10. I like very much your way of presentation. I am so much interested to join your network. Thanks for sharing this post. Keep blogging.

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  11. Do you like to get value for your money? LOL........................ It was an eye opener to read, it doesn't seem as romantic as i thought it would be.. Love your boat, she looks grand..... As long as you are happy who cares hay?