Friday, 6 September 2013

Frugal Friday...

Holiday 2007....Loch Carnan - South Uist
I was thinking back the other day, about how far we've come since we started all this frugality. It was 2007...
- I'd just bought a new car. Well, I say "I'd bought" - but in fact I owned about 25% of it with the remainder really belonging far more to the bank, who'd loaned me the money to buy it...
- I was earning close to double what I earn now...
...but I wasn't happy.
- I had just had the most miserable 12 months imaginable at work, and had had my first encounter with a black dog that I now know will trot at my heels for ever more. Mostly it's rather well-trained (I'm quite good with dogs) but sometimes it just sits down a refuses - point blank - to budge.
- We had been talking for the previous 5 years about overpaying the mortgage, but had never got around to it somehow.
- I had a conversation with a friend's husband about the merits of overpaying, and MoneySavingExpert among other things...

I still have the car, but almost everything else has changed. I'm no longer in contact with the friend whose husband gave us the advice and sat down with his spreadsheet to actually SHOW us, in black & white, what differences we could make. In some ways I quite miss her, in others I know that we had become very different people to the pair of mad Queen fans who'd met in 1992, and played huge parts in each others lives until 2010. I am hugely grateful to her husband - Kevin - for the fact that he was responsible for us "seeing the light" on all things financial, and maybe that's the best memory of all of a faded friendship.

The car is all mine - and has been since 13 months after I drove it off the forecourt, as the loan to pay for it was shifted 17 months early. When we bought MrEH's car second hand a few years later it was done with cash which we'd saved, and we're adamant that the only finance we will ever take for anything again will be of the 0% variety!

We now save set amounts every month to budget for things like birthday and christmas presents for the family, and our annual holiday. We also budget for "fun" - meaning that things like our trip to Orkney at easter, and upcoming visit to Scotland to see good friends get married, in wellies, in a forest, can be paid for up front.

I'm no longer in a stressful job, and the nightmare former employer is a distant memory. (In every way actually - they no longer exist at all. In some ways it was quite distressing to see a depot which had during the time I'd worked there always been a profit-making flagship branch, slip into loss after loss, before finally the whole of my old division of the company was sold off for a fraction of its proper worth. I've no doubt that the management are probably still making employees lives hell elsewhere, while pretending to the world that they wonderful - "Investors in People" award anyone? The truth is, your employees will say anything you like about you if you ensure that they're too scared to do otherwise!) I now earn roughly half the amount I did then, but a good part of that is as a result of the fact that I work less hours - and my work/life balance is back to being where it should.

We've been overpaying that Mortgage for 5 years now - half the time we've been living in the flat. We're also rapidly approaching having cleared exactly half of it - hurrah! When we changed to a new mortgage deal a few years back we reduced the term by 5 whole years, while barely changing our standard monthly payment at all. Since then our continued overpayments mean that we are now scheduled to knock ANOTHER 5 years off it, and we're still working to increase that further. Whatever we do down the line, having the mortgage gone will give us the freedom to make the best choices for us, and also means we will have paid an astonishing amount less interest than we were originally due to!

Holiday 2013 - Howmore, South Uist
When we get extra money these days, or make a saving on a regular expense that we have budgeted for, we don't fritter it away, we set it aside into savings, or pay it straight against the mortgage so we know it's working for us.  We use a credit card, but we make it work for us by earning us cashback. I can't remember the last time our bank accounts went overdrawn. We buy good quality, food, locally produced through choice, and yet still spend less in a month than many households do in a week. We shop seasonally and use Farmers Markets, farm shops, and markets where we can. We cook from scratch - life may be too short to stuff a mushroom, but it's definitely long enough to peel & mash a potato! We take a fortnight's holiday in the Hebrides each year, and lots of other weekends away through the year - but they are paid and budgeted for in advance, we don't have our fun on borrowed money. For those weekends away we stay in a tent, not a hotel, and eat food cooked on our camping stove, rather than looking for a restaurant.

I've learnt a lot about myself too - and gained some seriously good friends along the way. I've learnt that I enjoy the challenge of living simply from day to day, and that I don't need a constant stream of "stuff" in my life to make me happy. I've learnt that I'm quite happy to do lovely things with value or budget foodstuffs, and that a cheaper supermarket doesn't mean cheap & nasty meals. I know that I'd love to challenge myself to live entirely without shopping in the Supermarkets like Team Pugh are doing, but where we live it's simply not practical, and that's OK. I now know that not only am I good at the challenge of making our money stretch, I enjoy it too, and will be happy to keep it up for as long as it takes!

Robyn

12 comments:

Debbie said...


You have come such a long way, your story is inspiring. My husband I save for big expenses through the year, but somehow when the expenses come round there is never QUITE enough to cover them, thanks to the odd disastrous month when nothing is saved. It's a work in progress.

I am in Essex/Greater London, and I am currently trying to find places I would rather shop than the supermarkets, but it's not easy.

I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your frugal Friday posts. I have been reading your blog for months, I think I may have commented once but I'm always lurking, esp on Fridays :)

Scarlet said...

I love that you're not wearing the hair shirt of some others that are overpaying their mortgage. Living, as opposed to just focusing on overpaying, is important to us too. I can't imagine being on my deathbed thinking ' I wish I'd paid that extra £500 off the mortgage', but I may well think ' I wish we'd had that week in Cornwall for our 30th wedding anniversary'. For that reason, we'll continue to have our annual holiday for as long as we can.

saving for travel said...

Robyn,

I'm really sorry but I didn't get the email :(

martin_julie935@btinternet.com

Sft x

Robyn said...

SFT - I've sent it again - let me know if it doesn't turn up this time and I'll try from another account.

Debbie - we have the issue of there never quite being enough to meet the expense concerned sometimes too - I had to "borrow" from the household account to pay the car insurance when that was due - and as a result my poor little car will be waiting a couple of months longer for her service! Thanks for commenting - it's always lovely to hear from people!

Scarlet - good for you on the holiday thing, we're very much on the same wavelength on this issue (and others!) I know. I refuse to say we "can't afford" to do this, that, or the other - as that patently isn't the case for the most part. We choose to live simply because that is what suits us - and the very fact that it IS a choice makes it seem to me that it would be odd to be wearing any sort of hair shirt over it! xx

dreamer said...

It's good to look back and see how much progress you have made. Well done on your mortgage progress especially as you are still making sure you enjoy the things important to you along the way.

Robyn said...

Thanks Dreamer - it was only when I was actually writing that post that I truly realised just how far we HAVE come in that time! :-)

saving for travel said...

Hi Robyn, Just to let you know we got your brilliant email! Thank you.

We haven't decided quite which of the locations to chose yet. We have printed off a flight list and are so excited.

I'm keeping Mr Sft's birthday present a secret. I hope he won't mind seeing lots of planes twice.

Thank you so much for the kindness you've show us.

Sft x

Robyn said...

You're very welcome - have a great time!

GB said...

Hmmm. Peeing and mashing potatoes is going a bit far in my book: I can't remember when I last did that. On the other hand stuffed mushrooms - the large ones stuffed with vegetarian Haggis or goats' cheese - are right up my street.

Robyn said...

To my shame I ended up doing stuffed mushrooms for dinner on Friday night - well the supermarket had those lovely portabello ones reduced - would have been rude not to!

Singlegirl said...

Just found this. How far you've come. Amazing X

Robyn said...

Thank you - yes, when I actually thought back it surprised me!