If you have a mortgage, there’s a good chance that you’re somewhere between these categories:
- Content with paying your monthly payment
- Have found a good balance between overpaying on your mortgage along with the other things in your life that are important
- Want to do everything you can think of to get your mortgage paid off as quickly as possible
It’s fair to say that we were closest to the third category; wanting to do everything we could think of to get our mortgage paid off as quick as possible.
In spite of the completely valid and logical arguments to the contrary, this was what felt best for us. We would undoubtedley have a higher net worth right now if we’d more heavily prioritised investing, but even knowing what we know now, we wouldn’t change what we did.
There were two areas we decided upfront would remain in our budget; good meat and travel. In these areas, we’d look for good value but we would always commit to spending a certain amount (and there was no need to bat an eye lid when the horsemeat scandal arose because we’ve never eaten a findus ‘beef’ lasagna!)
Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that travel (and overseas travel at that- I like to be warm when I’m exploring!) still requires quite a large slice of the budget. A slice that, cut out on its own, would save having to snip every other area of the budget, including chocolate biscuits. But we both agreed they were important enough to protect, to the detriment of other items.
On two moderate incomes, it would require some quite extreme saving in other areas to tackle the mortgage with the ferocity needed to get it shifted asap.
Cutting coffee and avocados out of my budget would be completely redundant advice for me. I have no time for takeaway coffee (my default walk speed is power walk, I don’t want hot liquid sloshing about) and can’t stand the consistency of avocados so I really can’t tell you how go about cutting these out in a pain free way. I’ll leave that for a coffee/ avocado lover to share with you!
To be honest, the point of this post isn’t to stop you eating chocolate biscuits either. It’s to share how cutting a tiny expense made more difference than just the saving from biscuits.
Presumably in a moment of madness or flash of genius, I decided chocolate biscuits would get substituted for non-chocolate biscuits. We didn’t go five years without a chocolate biscuit passing our lips (come on, this is chocolate biscuits we’re talking about!) but biscuits without chocolate became the norm.
On the face of it, it sounds almost completely irrelevant. Deprivation for the sake of deprivation. 85p for a pack of chocolate milted milk biscuits compared to the non-chocolate covered ones at 40p is never going to make a real dent in the mortgage.
In actual fact, it turned out to be the most important expense. Because when we made that deliberate decision not to buy something we like to save 45p, we took away a lot of the impulsion from more expensive impulse purchases.
A share bag of crisps might only add a couple of pounds to our overall bill, but it completely wipes out the saving on the biscuits. So, we’d be better off treating ourselves to those chocolate biscuits after all (which has started feeling pretty luxurious when they’re only in the biscuit tin once a month) than throwing in a more expensive treat that has just caught our eye.
The other stuff
When you’re looking at how you can save 45p per week, those bigger expenses/ potential savings come under scrutiny. Do we need to spend £12 per week on wine? Two fewer bottles would save more than going with chocolate-free biscuits for a year.
We made do or went without lots of stuff that would have been lovely to have at the point of purchase but quickly become part of our new, higher standard of normal.
We kept our second hand crockery and rickety ironing board. We cut down monthly magazines, we wore and wore and wore (and are still wearing) clothes. We never succumbed to the allure of sky or other TV services. We chose less expensive smart phones and mobile contracts and other technology. Slowly but surely we compressed our weekly take away/ eating out habit to a handful of times per year, seemingly an impossible task at the outset.
And when it got too much, if a day was too testing, we’d slip in some of our previous normalities. Except they were no longer the norm, they were treats and consequently went further to easing bad days.
Gently stretching your savings muscle
Some people choose to go hell for leather when they start a new challenge, whether it be exercising, quitting a bad habit or improving their finances. And it works well for them. I found more of a yoga approach to finances more effective.
All the things I just talked about cutting down that would make for a pretty painful existence done in one go, were gradual changes. Gently stretching, little by little. Until eventually you can’t remember a time when you couldn’t touch your financial toes (but you’re sure all those chocolate biscuits you were eating weren’t helping!)
I’d love to know what you think, what works and doesn’t work for you, whether cutting chocolate biscuits was a step to far or if you’re a frugal queen that makes all their own biscuits anyway?