I was having a browse around blogland the other day and found an interesting post by Fiction Burns (It resonated with me following on from the post I wrote earlier in the week about my planning and organisation for the new Airshow season, that I wouldn't go into debt to pay for the fun stuff.) It touches on choices, and saving for stuff, and living within your means, and I just read through it thinking "Yes....Yes...YES!" (and not in a "When Harry met Sally" kind of way, either!) So much of what she says matches up with my life too - although we live in a very different environment as you'll see if you read her blog!
Whether you call it frugality, thriftiness, simple living, or, dare I say it, "austerity", the whole "live more simply and save cash" movement has really grown over the last few years - in some cases because it's just had to - when the recession bit back in 2008 people did lose jobs, and more importantly for many, credit became far, far harder to come by. Thankfully by the time things started getting tough we'd already got rid of any debt we had beyond our mortgage, but for those for whom living from loan to loan and credit card to credit card was "situation normal" life changed dramatically. Our own dramatic change happened when my employment situation got messy back in 2010 - overnight my income dropped by 2/3rds and realistically speaking it is still only 50% of where it would have been by now had I stayed in the same job. Thanks to the fact that we'd already simplified our lives and our finances, and had some emergency cash in the bank, we were OK in spite of this drop - and no, before anyone says it, MrEH doesn't earn megabucks - prior to the drop I was the higher earner. In spite of the recession I managed to find work so I started earning again more or less immediately - a huge change from what I'd been doing previously but as I no longer wished to be in my old industry that suited me well. It helped that I was willing to do whatever I had to to bring in a wage too - something that a lot of young school-leavers and university graduates would do well to take heed of I suspect! We never skipped a mortgage overpayment and didn't dip into our savings at all.
So, looking at the basic stuff we've found helps to run our lives now using a similar format to that blog post that inspired me...
What it says, really - have one, know what it is, stick to it. There is only so much money coming in every month - we have a joint bank account where all joint expenses come from - mortgage, mortgage savings, bills, food, travel, car costs. The bare minimum to cover all that lot gets left in there, everything else gets transferred to savings of one sort or another. Within the main budget there are others too - for holidays, food, big annual expenses like home & car insurance. For those we divide the cost by 12 and set aside the relevant amount each month. the same for Christmas and other presents. Christmas doesn't take anyone by surprise - it's always the same date, plan for it and there should be no need for putting it on credit. (And sorry, but this point is not "different when you've got kids" either!)
Look after what you have!
If you run a car, get it serviced regularly. Check the oil level, and the tyres regularly - tyres at the correct inflation last longer and cost you less to drive on. Wash it by hand occasionally - that way you will spot any oddments of damage before they turn into a rusty problem. In fact wash it - full stop. A clean car is again more fuel efficient (yes, really!) and if you've paid good money for it then you should want it to look nice anyway! Buy good quality shoes and boots if you're going to do any amount of walking in them, and then treat them well with polish or dubbin, and get them re-heeled and soled when they require it. A decent winter coat will last you several years, the same applies to a waterproof jacket - better to spend twice as much for something that will last you four times as long. Remember to have clothes that need dry cleaning done regularly, and as for those waterproofs, wash them in a specialist cleaner not your standard washing powder, and re-proof regularly. When buying appliances research properly and buy the best you can within your budget. We've learned to our cost that buying cheaper brands of Washer/Dryer for example, backfires as they don't last the pace.
Live a little!
Sure we could never go out, never have a takeaway, never switch our heating on, never go on holiday, never buy anything above the bare essentials. By never spending on anything not vital to live, we could obviously have paid a lot more off the mortgage by now. We could, but then again we could get run over by a bus tomorrow, and nobody ever, in their dying breath, said "Damn! I wish I'd skipped that portion of chips eaten at the seaside in order to pay a bit more off the mortgage!" did they now? ;-) We each have our own personal money every month which pays for our personal day to day expenses and individual fun. We have takeaways occasionally. We see something that looks yummy in the supermarket and think "Sod it!" and put it into the basket. We buy free range eggs, and "happy" meat, and shop at farmers markets when we can. we have weekends away (often using the tent to save money on hotels) and days out. We have a specific budget each month to set aside for "fun stuff". As a result in all the time we've been OP'ing the mortgage we've never really reached the point where we've started feeling hard done by, or like we want to pack it all in.
Don't just throw things away! That item you're fed up with, or have no further use for, might be a lifesaver to someone else if they find it in the charity shop. Clothes too - pop through a wash with other items and dispatch them off to the charity shop if you no longer want, need or fit them. Try to avoid food waste too - think about portion control or come up with a plan for using leftovers. Too much pasta or rice can be combined with veggies and a light dressing to make a salad to go with the next nights meal, or to pack up for a packed lunch, and leftover bread can always be transformed into croutons, or breadcrumbs, both of which freeze brilliantly. If as you're serving out a pasta sauce, for example, it looks like you'll have more than you need, try separating out a portion which will can be frozen, rather than just ladling it all onto the plates. Buying fresh food that has been prepared for you is an expensive use of your food budget - think in particular things like onions and lettuce! Keep an eye on the fridge, larder and cupboards to make sure that things get used while they're still fresh, and have a list on the fridge that you can add items to when you know you're running low before transferring them to your shopping list - this helps stop you buying double! If you use a lot of bread then get yourself a breadmaker - our £45-ish model paid for itself inside a year - but don't take your eye off the ball as to when it's cheaper to buy rather than make - I'm talking yellow stickers! Think before you spend - and remember the cashback sites! Never shop when you're hungry or browse eBay or Amazon when you're bored!
How about you - what helps you organise your life and your finances?