My Money: ‘My house looks happy’

My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Anna Josse Eklund from Kristinehamn in the county of Värmland in Sweden takes us through a week in her life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Anna, 52, is married to Magnus, 55. They have two children, Ellen, 26 and Oscar, 23. Anders, 28, and his seven-year-old son Loki, are also included in their family. All their children live in their own homes. Anna works as a senior lecturer and vice head of the department of nursing at Karlstad University. Her monthly salary is 52,300 Swedish Krona (£4,500), which after taxes is 35,500 SEK (£3,050). Magnus earns a bit less than she does.

When Anna is not working she likes to spend time with her extended family and friends. During the summer she likes gardening. In the winter she likes to listen to books whilst building Lego.

Over to Anna…

The day started with me searching for a new pavilion tent since ours blew to bits during a storm yesterday. I looked for a used one on Blocket (the Swedish equivalent of ebay) and Facebook Marketplace but unfortunately couldn’t find one. We bought a new one for 3,499 SEK (£300). Hopefully it will be more robust and will withstand the wind better.

I also picked up hand sanitisers for the children (don’t know if I should call them children anymore – they are all well over 20!) since I had spotted a good price: 70 SEK x 3 = 210 SEK.

Next on the to-do list was the weekly grocery shopping. Since I was hungry we started with me getting a sausage with shrimp salad and roasted onions (40 SEK) so that I could keep my mood up while shopping at our local grocery store, one of two large supermarkets in our town. It was money well-spent as we had a long shopping list with some items we do not buy regularly so we had to spend some time looking for them.

We are on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet which allows me to not be hungry all the time thus keeping my spirits up and not yelling at my family. This diet requires us to eat a lot of fat and protein, which is rather expensive food so today’s grocery bill was 1,816 SEK. In the evening, Magnus cooked dinner – meat sauce with zucchini pasta and regular pasta for Oscar who is living with us this summer to be closer to his summer job. The cost for the dinner was approximately 110 SEK for five good sized portions. Oscar will take one to work tomorrow. I ordered more food online for 639 SEK.

Total spend: 6,204 SEK (£533.44)

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As we are on vacation, Magnus and I decided to work on the garden. To simplify the watering process I bought a longer, self-coiling hose (1,700 SEK), which we installed. Happy with the result I watered all my plants in the house, garden and backyard.

We live in a small town of 24,000 inhabitants and commute 40km every day to Karlstad, a 30-minute trip that Magnus and I make together in our car. Although both of us work in Karlstad we have decided to stay in Kristinehamn since we have my parents, my sister and two of our children here and we can own a larger house for less money in this smaller town. One nice thing with living near your loved ones is that you can, on short notice, invite them for dinner. I love informal gatherings and cooking for such occasions. Tonight we had friends and family over for a barbecue. Due to the wind and low temperature we sat in the dining room, rather than out on the patio. The menu consisted of barbecued meat, potato gratin and tzatziki and cucumber salad from our own cucumbers. For dessert we ate lovely strawberries with milk and cream, 100 SEK for three litres.

Total spend: 1,800 SEK (£154.60)

Tuesday night dinner with family.

The last few summers we have had heatwaves stretching for weeks. The temperatures have reached more than 30C, which we Swedes are not accustomed to! This makes it hard to sleep. Because of this we previously installed an air source heat pump, which doubles as an air conditioner in the summer, but we also needed to install new blinds and renovate the old ones (18,000 SEK). Now the house looks happy, as if it had veneers fitted.

A happy house with new blinds fitted.

In the evening my sister Marie and her foster daughter Esmerelda took me to a café. I treated myself to a sandwich with liver pate (without the bread of course) and a fizzy drink (54 SEK). The café is owned by the Swedish church and they sell small things such as books to raise money for the parish. I bought some nice button pins for my company (65 SEK).

Total spend: 18,119 SEK (£1,558.23)

Started the day with shopping, mainly for my parents who are over 70 and therefore should stay away from shops as part of their social distancing. The additional groceries for us and a screen protector for my mobile added up to 504 SEK.

After that Esmeralda and I went to the bank to do some errands and as she is a student with limited funds, I bought her and I lunch (139 SEK). I also bought a phone case (299 SEK) and some stationery, including a reusable bag (118 SEK). We all need them now as plastic bags are expensive due to a new tax which aims to reduce plastic littering.

In the afternoon my friend Anders and I took a boat trip on Lake Vänern to enjoy the nice weather and relax on a secluded island not far from our harbour. On the way home I craved onions, so I bought some to fry as a side dish for dinner (24 SEK).

Total spend: 1,084 SEK (£93.22)

Today we decided to arrange a hot dog party and bought different sausages and condiments to accommodate different tastes (717 SEK).

In the Covid-19 reality we always meet outside, and everyone has a responsibility to not participate if they feel unwell in any way. Tonight there were 13 of us and it was nice just to be able to be together. We grilled sausages over an open fire, made bread on a stick and ate lovely lemon muffins made by my dear friend Annelie. At the end of the evening we were joined by a hedgehog who lives in our garden. He/she ate some leftovers and sniffed at my foot. Feeling satisfied with the day I realise that in a way it’s more important than ever to show each other care and love, and to just enjoy the fact that we are each other’s family.

Total spend: 717 SEK (£61.66)

A hedgehog in the garden.

More cleaning of the house. In the afternoon we celebrated our family friend Johan’s 22nd birthday with his usual homemade cinnamon buns, strawberry cake, coffee and barbecue. We bought him a mosquito repellent apparatus (349 SEK) which he was pleased with. Johan’s family have a hedgehog called Kaisa and she comes every night for her meal of cat food and, I suppose, company. Sometimes she is tired, perhaps from weaning hoglets, so she takes a nap before going back to her nest.

Total spend: 349 SEK (£30)

Last day of blogging and yet another wonderfully monotonous day. Sunny weather, more work in the house. The feeling of getting rid of unusable, unmodern, and broken things is heavenly, almost cathartic, and the more things I get rid of or organise properly, the more liberated I feel.

For lunch, our son-in-law-to-be Martin, his three brothers Oliver, Emil and Adam, and my mother and father joined us. The menu consisted of potato salad and spicy meat made from leftovers from Johan’s birthday party yesterday. I love making food from leftovers since it’s a bit of a challenge to create something new and it’s always nice to eat food instead of throwing it away. In Sweden as in many other countries the management of food is a very current topic so of course we think a lot about acting responsibly with food.

My father and I went to the supermarket to get hand sanitisers for him and my mother. I bought small containers for Martin’s brothers (buying and distributing hand sanitisers seems to be a theme in my life now) and a shelf for the basement (170 SEK).

In the afternoon, my sister Marie and I visited our father’s husband Curt at his nursing home. Family are allowed to visit the elderly person outside a few times a week if you sit on each side of a portable window. It’s nice to be able to see our “honorary” father, even through a window. Due to advanced dementia it is hard to hear his speech and with the glass between us it’s even harder. We spent the hour trying to tell him about our lives, pass on regards from lots of people and Marie sang with him. It’s quite amazing that he can still sing and even in Finnish, which he learnt as an adult.

Visiting Curt at the nursing home.

When I got home the boys had assembled the pavilion tent and we spent the last lovely hours of the day there with the family. In these Covid-19 times I count myself lucky to be able to meet my family and friends since we have ample opportunities to meet outside with adequate physical distancing.

Building the pavilion.

Now it’s 11:30pm on Sunday night and I’m handing over the torch to someone else, somewhere in the world who will tell their interesting story of how they spend and save money during a week. I am looking forward to reading it. Over and out from me with a picture that embraces the Swedish summer – raspberries and cream.

Total spend: 170 SEK (£14.62)

Strawberries and cream.

Total spent this week: 28,443 SEK (£2,418.77)

How does Anna feel about her week?

We spent more money compared with a usual week. Mainly because of the blinds, which we had saved up for, but also due to the opportunities to socialise more during our vacation. Having said that, spending money on food and drink for gatherings in our house is usually a priority.

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