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The perfect gift for minimalists (and people who realise they have too much stuff)

The perfect gift for minimalists (and people who realise they have too much stuff)

I should start out by saying I’m not a minimalist. With the exception of my blog, which hasn’t seen a sniff of a post for around 6 weeks, every part of my life seems crammed with stuff. I most definitely fit into the camp of ‘people who realise they have too much stuff’, and I have realised this for a couple of years.

Now, I could have answered the question in a 140 character tweet (a minimal response, as it were), but though the answer is simple, the feelings behind it are not. (I also liked the idea of a minimalist pin to fit the theme. It actually suits my attitude towards designing pins, an activity that adds annoying clutter to the blogging journey. Anyway, I digress…)

So what is the perfect gift for minimalists and people who realise they have too much stuff?

To my mind, there is one answer and that is: Time.

Why?

Oh you know the answer to this! But still, I can’t help but answer it!

Time is the most precious thing we have. It’s why I’ve been quiet lately, as I’ve been spending more of my time with family and friends. It’s easy to forget, to think money is important, but money is the thing we get in exchange for our exceptionally precious time. Yep, time is the winner here people. And it’s the best gift you can give.

But what about experiences, that’s a great gift too, right?

Well, you know how retailers know how to trick us into buying stuff we don’t want or need? They’ve clocked our switch from stuff to experiences and are now merrily manufacturing experiences for us to buy.

That’s not to say no experience ever is worth paying for, of course I don’t mean that. I just mean that taking part in some kind of experience on the same day as 10 other people, that’s been designed and marketed as an experience… well, I’m not convinced it’s always the best use of your time or money.

Giving an experience as a gift can also cause problems on when to use it before it expires. So, you lose the enjoyment by having to wrangle something into your calendar that suits certain experience providers’ calendars. Red Letter Days and Virgin Experience Days- I’m looking at you here!

So you’re going to only give time as gifts this year?

I never said I’m any good at this. Just like thousands of other people, I buy things that I know I don’t need to buy, that the recipient may not have a need for, because I know they will still love it and I want to spend my money (already exchanged for time) on something they will absolutely love.

In this respect, I am a selfish giver. I give because I get joy from giving. Unfairly, I don’t consider that the person receiving the gift will need to store it with all the other gifts they  have received, and likely don’t need, and all the stuff they already own.

I am cramming their house with stuff. I know from personal experience how hard it is to get rid of gifts that have been lovingly chosen by someone for me. And yet, I have not completely learned that not buying a gift is sometimes better.

This is what I tell myself. It is how I have reduced my gift list, replaced some of the material gifts with time, and have become more cautious with what I buy.

I get better at this each year. For a number of years, my friends and I have each paid for ourselves to go somewhere nice together or do something fun, rather than buying each other Christmas gifts. I have met up with my mum and sister, arranged day trips for my neice and cooked meals for my Nana when she was with us.

And even with my love for buying and wrapping a lovely gift, I have loved giving (and being part of) these gifts of time.

Any ideas?

You know your friends and family better than I do… and lots of you will be more creative than me. Here are some of the things I’ve done and plan to do over Christmas (and throughout the year, in fact!)

Babysitting I-O-Us, spa days, orienteering, baking cakes and home made pies, visiting museums and gardens, visit to the zoo, go on a hike, have a garden party, host a board game night, go to a pub quiz, afternoon tea, sunday lunch, have a film night, brunch, go to the theatre, watch a meteor shower, enjoy a sunset, and a visit to a food festival.

Think about what the recipient would appreciate, your time doing something on their behalf (like cooking or babysitting) or time doing something with you.

Now some of these involve spending money, and it’s up to you whether  you want to pay for someone else, or whether it suits you both to each pay your share and treat the experience as a gift to yourself and each other. Let’s face it, many of us are in the habit of exchanging £20 gifts, so you may as well each keep your £20 and use it towards tickets, lunch or whatever you decide to do!

What do you think?

There are tonnes of articles out there giving you advice on gifts and the perfect Christmas. Quite honestly, only you can decide what gifts to give. But I’d be interested to know how you tackle gift giving for those who don’t need anything and whether you’ve been able to tame any selfish gift giving tendencies (I can’t be the only one!)

Repaying the mortgage one chocolate-free biscuit at a time

Repaying the mortgage one chocolate-free biscuit at a time

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.

Chocolate 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?

Every house doesn’t need a lawn mower

Every house doesn’t need a lawn mower

Why do we all (most of us) feel the need to create an island out of our home, with everything in it that we could need?

On the street I live in, house after house after house has their own shed, filled with their own bikes (rarely used), their own lawn mower, their own hedge strimmer.

Inside, people keep their little-used pianos, a library’s worth of books, a gym’s worth of equipment, a catering company’s worth of crockery. Even with several years pruning my possessions (with my very own sacotuers) and diligently considering new purchases (or so I thought), my house is still full of stuff. And yes, I have my favourites and most useful things that get used day after day after day. But I have way way way too many ‘occassional’ items.

I sometimes kid myself that I am a lightly treading consumer, that I limit my environmental impact to the slimmest amount. And whilst it’s true that I own things longer than most people perhaps do, and derive glee from reducing my cost per use of items, I’ve just had a bath and could see 9 lotions, potions and bottles just at the end of the bath. Above my head, should I have looked up, as well as in a shelving unit alongside the bath, and in a little hidey hole underneath are dozens more. I know this is a bit of a tangent- I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t own your own shampoo! But how on earth have I, someone who owns one mascara and one eyeshadow pallette, managed to amass so much of this kinda stuff??? What the frick?

Until recently (when I acquired one for free that was taken to the tip and is still in full working order!?), I shared my dad’s garden strimmer. It saved me buying and storing one, and saved one needing to be produced for me. Why is this unusual though? Why do we need to have our own one of everything? We’d all have more money and space if we shared more.

I have a long way to go, but I’m trying to consume less. Not just for the financial benefits, but for my own sanity (I find clutter very stressful) and for the environment. Getting better at sharing isn’t easy when no one needs you to share anything with them. So here’s where I’ve dipped my toe into the communal pool:

  • Owning different board games to the ones owned by friends, and playing with non-board game owning friends
  • Pledging to lend some of my crockery to a friend the next time she throws a family party
  • Lending accessories to my sister on special occassions (honestly, being the big sis, I don’t think I’ll be able to escape this, but I secretly love it!)
  • Lending films and books to people who will enjoy them
  • Taking our own towels when we stay with friends. Some friends did this when they visited us so we wouldn’t have to wash once used towels. I appreciated it so much, I’ve pinched the idea when we visit! 🙂
  • Sharing our suitcases with family when they go on holiday
  • Borrowing my aunt’s smoothie maker on the odd occassions that I feel like making smoothies

Every house doesn’t need one of everything. Virtually every house needs less, not more. This kind of attitude can help save a lot of money, not just by sharing those little used items with others, but by helping you realise you don’t even need to share some stuff because it’s completely unnecessary. Those contraptions that turn courgettes into spaghetti are a fantastic example.

If you’ve got any more ideas, anything you do or are trying, to get away from the ‘my house must have one of these of its very own’ mentality, please do let me know! I sure could use the inspiration…

Looking after ‘current you’ without sacrificing ‘future you’

Looking after ‘current you’ without sacrificing ‘future you’

Current vs futureAre you wrapped in the day to day life of the present version of you, or constantly planning the fate of future you?

Well, current you and future you is and will be the same person. You shouldn’t neglect either version of yourself.

Fortunately, I’ve found there are things you can do that are good for both current you, and future you. Who doesn’t love a win, win situation?

My natural tendency towards ‘future me’

Growing up, I saw my parents have to make decisions. Like the decision to replace windows one year instead of taking a family vacation. And they gave me my own decisions to make from a young age. Like the decision to have a £1.20 comic bought for me, or to have a pound coin that I could use however I wanted. (I almost always took the pound. I almost never spent it. There was something always more appealing in the future).

I presume it’s this environment  that taught me that a short term decision could be regretted in the longer term, which means I now have a strong sense of future self.

The downside of being future focussed

Having this strong sense of future self has been incredibly powerful at stopping me spending money on junk and giving me a strong financial footing. Present me is pretty thankful for the decisions that past me made. Every version of present me makes decisions for the different versions of future me. For example, tomorrow me will be happy to have a sandwich made by past me (still future me at the time of writing). 80 year old me will be happy that years and years of past mes paid into a pension.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been feeling pretty exhausted. So much so that, on one Sunday, I gave myself the task of doing nothing more than getting dressed and buying bananas. And that was it. I was pooped!

This weekend, I’ve decided that current me is no use to future me if she’s too exhausted to function. And so, I’ve been investing in the important areas of my current life. I’ve reaped immediate dividends but, rather unexpectedley, set future me up to receive recurring benefits.

Exercise for physical and mental health

Health is the greatest wealth but its an account that many of us fail to top up frequently or regularly enough. Investing in your physical health today will see immediate benefits for your mental health, as well as future benefits to your physical health. It’s just a case of choosing something that’s right for you.

One of the things I’ve been doing this weekend is learning how to use a foam roller, deliberately improving strength and spine health. A by product of this has been a calmer and more positive mental state.

Future me has very little chance of being fit and healthy if current me neglects my physical fitness and emotional wellbeing. This time last week I felt lifeless and lost. Right now, I feel balanced, energised, and ready to tackle the week.

Nutrition

We all know we shouldn’t eat too much sugar or fatty food or drink too much alcohol, etc. It’s easy to do these things mindlessly when you’re focussing relentlessly on future you. Before you know it, you’re opting for lazy, cheap, low nutrition options that leave you lethargic but craving more.

Current me has the priority this weekend, so I’ve coughed up and bought ingredients for a delicious and luxurious breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt and granola with fruit juice and my energy today has far exceed the energy I had yesterday. Breakfast is one of the areas where I have to make myself spend more money.

A box of £1 mutlitgrain hoops may last the week but there’s a reason that I don’t last the week- it doesn’t contain enough good stuff. I’ve been guilty of lapsing back to my cheap and lazy ways, but this morning’s breakfast (and how I now feel) is a much needed reminder to think about what nutrition I put into my body. Is there something you cut corners with to save yourself five minutes and a few pounds at a cost to your health?

Another easy way to look after the present version of yourself is simply drink more water. I’m guilty of failing to take in enough fluids usually, so I’ve deliberately upped my water consumption. Current me is better hydrated and future me will benefit from not having spent money to hydrate myself as well as the reinforced habit of drinking water.

Family and friends

Money can’t buy relationships, at least none with meaning. I can think of a million and one things that need doing at home, but those things can wait. It is all to easy to put off investing in relationships, especially when your budget is designed around maximum savings. However, taking your foot of the brake now and then (in a controlled manner!) will most likely to be money well spent.

On Friday, we met up with another couple for a quick (but delish) bite to eat followed by a film. Our friends have a great sense of humour and a night of laughter was a cracking start to the weekend. In a daring bout of extreme luxury, we ate out for a second consecutive night on the Saturday. Whilst board games will probably always be my favourite couple’s activity, you can’t beat sitting down over a meal and just connecting without distraction. It was bliss, made even better by no washing up to be done.

How does this help future me? Well, having the prospect of a meal to look forward to on Saturday evening made us super productive in the day, which we’re really going to benefit from through the week. Never mind limping through the chores of the day, we powered through washing, ironing and a major declutter (several bags will be carted down to the charity shops this week!)

Cutting bills and expenses

If you’re super focussed on future you then like me, you probably don’t enjoy the feeling of constantly spending money. We’ve enjoyed how we spent our money this weekend, but we haven’t let all fiscal prudence go out the window.

We remembered to take our 3D glasses to the cinema to avoid buying more, we chose glasses (rather than a bottle) of wine with dinner on Saturday, we cut the cost of food shopping using cashback vouchers from our credit card, and we switched onto a cheaper energy tarriff that will save around £15 per month.

This meant current me was relaxed and enjoyed how we spent our money, without leaving future me wondering if she’s been fogotten.

How are you balancing future you with current you?

I think I’ll always need to give myself little reminders not to forget about current me, but this weekend has shown me that thinking about the current version me doesn’t mean forsaking the future version of me. Do you have a stronger leaning towards the current version of you or the future version of you, and how do you strike a balance?

Women! Are you using all your financial power?

Women! Are you using all your financial power?

Right, I’ve had 3 weeks off writing and I’m back with a bang! Usually, when I write my posts about money, I try to be balanced, I try to be polite, and I try to be gently encouraging. I try to take account of the fact that everyone’s circumstances are different, and I try to be inclusive in how I write (whether I am successful or not is another matter). I try to not upset anyone. But this is important, and its something I feel strongly about. I see and hear strong, intelligent, capable women shy away from investing because they don’t believe they can do it.

So women, ladies, chicas, bitches, femmes, whatever we’re calling ourselves, this is a battle cry for us all to become more courageous and make sure we’re using all our financial power.

Don’t get me wrong, we have some of the most beautifully colour coordinated budget spreadsheets, can make one large chicken feed an army of 5000, and have an small but impressive collection of fleece pyjamas to help us abstain from central heating. But mention investing, and we lose our confidence and strength is replaced with fear and doubt.

I used to be guilty of this. I was 100% convinced I would lose all my money, that I could never understand what I was doing, that it was too complicated for me.

Perhaps it comes from times when men would hunter-gather and women would protect and nurture. Putting your money in a savings account and being frugal with your expenses is how that manifests today. But we live in world where we all provide, all protect and all nurture. It is time for us to learn that we can be better providers when we dare to take carefully balanced risks.

One of the greatest financial powers there is is investing. It might even be the greatest power

Being able to feed your family on £50 per month is epic. But it takes one heck of an effort to do that month in, month out. I know I’ve never managed it.

But when you invest your money, it earns more money for years and years and years to come. And that money it earns, also earns more money for years and years to come. And so it continues. And the more it continues, the easier it is. Easier than keeping your grocery bill to £50 quid whilst inflation continues to rise, that’s for sure.

Let just do a couple of quick sums. For funsies.

If you pop a nice little £50 a month into a savings account, its a great start. After 25 years, with a rate of 0.5%, you’ll come out with £15,978.59. A nice chunk of money, right? Good job on the protecting and nurturing front.

But, take advantage of your financial powers by stock market investing (feel free to make your own superhero cape or throw your head back and roar like a lioness- whatever works for you) and that £50 could grow to £29,406.04, assuming a 5% return.

The same resources go much further and you’ll nearly double your money. And that calculation is even with me failing to have courage that the stock market will continue to yield an average of 7% annually, so it could well be worth a helluva lot more.

There’s enough inequality without bringing it upon ourselves

I don’t deny that it is shitty that in 2017 there is still such an embarrasingly wide pay gap, that mothers get overlooked for promotions, and that females have to work harder to earn the respect of their male co-workers. It might not be true in 100% in workplaces but it is way more normal than it should be.

However, we cap our earning potential further by failing to have the courage to invest, to seize a little piece of financial equality, to omit one of the greatest financial powers at our fingertips. It’s  something we have control of, so why aren’t more of us seizing that control?

Why do we let that little voice in our head tell us its not for us, that we can’t understand it, that knowing our luck we’ll lose every penny we ever had? To that voice I say IT IS FOR US AND WE CAN UNDERSTAND IT!

Don’t just take my word for it!

Don’t believe me? Check out superhero Feminist Financier, the oh so sassy bitches get riches, and educator extraodinaire she picks up pennies (who is also a mom, so you can’t be using kids as an excuse).

We are all different but we are all capable of understanding how to invest, as long as we believe we can.

Where do you start? I thought you’d never ask! I came up with an investing guide for beginners, with all the stuff I wish I’d been able to read all in one place.  Beyond that, the world is your oyster. Don’t stand by, a helpless onlooker to financial markets. Stand up and soar, be a beacon for other women who have yet to make the leap.

If you, or the women in your life, are amazing investors (or even brave beginners) shout up and share your story. Let’s inspire more to do the same. If you’re a bystander, join in the conversation too. We can tackle this together. I’d love to hear from you all, whatever your journey!

 

 

Is life too short to blog?

Is life too short to blog?

Do you ever find yourself wondering if life is too short to blog? I’ve wondered it since starting to write almost a year ago.

There is one reason why people blog, and that is to reach people. There are many reasons for wanting to reach people- to help them, to connect with them, to make money from them, to show off, to build a community, to inspire, to persuade, to receive validation, etc. But if we didn’t want to reach people, if we were writing for the pure joy of writing, we wouldn’t need to hit publish on our posts, wouldn’t need to put our words out there on the world wide web.

It is both easy and difficult to reach people. Easy because so many people now have access to the internet. Difficult because there are billions of other pages out there vying for people’s attention.

To build a blog that people read (and I mean more than 10 or 20) takes a lot of time and effort. The pursuit of readers consumes a lot of your time, and I’d wager that, before you started blogging, you didn’t spend hours on end at a loss for what to do with your time.

And so, this question of whether life if too short to blog has been on my mind. Rather than thinking about how I can attract more readers or constantly considering new topics, should I let it all go and get on with ‘living’. Many people who start a blog do just that, and who could blame them? I decided that when I went on holiday earlier in the year, I’d take two weeks off. No signing in to check stats. Nothing scheduled. No plans to draft. At. All.

Throughout the two weeks, ideas popped up here, there and everywhere. Good ideas too, better than some of the posts sat in my drafts. Time spend travelling, on a train or in an airport departure lounge, was greedily gobbled up penning words to paper.

Staring at a laptop screen night after night isn’t conducive to interesting posts about money. Following the same routine, talking with the same people, and reading the same news source isn’t either.

It makes sense now, but when life is dull, writing is dull. When life revolves around writing, rather than the other way around, THAT is when life is too short to blog. But when life inspires you to write, then that is exactly what you should do! I might not be wedded to a schedule that every ‘how to be a successful blog’ tells you that you need to be. But when I write, I’m going to enjoy it!

 

What’s my why for blogging? Well that’s not as straight forward an answer as I thought. I guess I’m arrogant enough to believe what I write could help people not just improve their finances, but improve their lives too. That’s what I’ve gained from others and what I want to give back. I want to be that next article someone pours over when they’re trying to repay their mortgage or work out how to start investing and have it just ‘click’ with them. What about you?

The key to contentment

The key to contentment

You don’t need me to tell you that money doesn’t buy happiness. Granted, money can take away the source of some unhappiness, but that doesn’t automatically equal happiness.

Recently I have found the elusive key to the secret door of contentment. OK, so I already knew travelling is one legitimate key to contentment, but it has the unfortunate need for large(ish) stashes of cash to pull it off. But this key is free! (Woop!)

They say comparison is the thief of joy (and if google search results can be trusted, these were the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt). I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly guilty of looking at other people’s lives and wishing it was the life I lived. Or at least, wishing aspects of their lives were part of my own. For me, I have little desire for fame or for untold luxuries, but for the idyllic. I didn’t realise I was such a romantic, but apparently so. I’m especially susceptible to gazing wistfully at snippets of other peoples’ lives when I’m somewhere different, and my thoughts are a world away from reality.

Romantic snippets from other peoples’ lives

I love the island of Cyprus. It has beautiful weather, a slow pace of Mediterranean life, delicious food shared with family. Fruit grows in abundance, children help their parent’s with the animals, grandmothers pick (or supervise picking of) olives from the trees, and houses have beautiful verandas on which their owners can watch the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening. In Cyprus’ capital Nicosia, groups of men, young and old get together to drink frappes and play cards around a rickety old table in the beaming sun.

I struggle to pick a favourite place, from the understated city of Larnaca, with it’s gentle hum of life, incredible food and lively celebrations, to the richly historic capital city of Nicosia, to the verdant towns and villages perched in the Troodos mountains. It is fair to say I am smitten and cannot help but look longingly at the lives of the people who live there and wish that, part at least, were my life.

I, on the other hand, live in England. Where it mostly rains. And slugs eat anything I try to grow.

Images of beautiful Cyprus.

 

Mexico is another place and way of life that I fell in love with. We ate in a tiny family run restaurant, situated in a secluded village that sat alongside forest preserved by the Mayan people. By tiny family restaurant, I mean they had 1 table with 4 chairs on their porch. It was a perfect slice of the real Mexico. The food was simple, fresh and bursting with flavour. Nearby a group of kids played football and imagined how blissful it must be to live in this close knit community so close to nature. In a surprise rain shower, a group of children sheltered under a large table cloth as they walked home from school, talking and laughing as they went.

This is what I mean. I see snippets of people’s lives and they seem so perfectly romantic. But just before I lose you to gently sighing and gazing off into the distance, lets look at this another way.

The grass isn’t always greener

Can you imagine living in a city divided by war, where rusty barbed wire tops the dividing line, which is monitored by armed guards? Or feeling stuck in a country where youth unemployment is at nearly 30% (compared to 12 to 13% in the UK) and any job is hard to come by. You can do nothing about the war or the economy. This is the reality of Cyprus. Whilst Nicosia’s history and visible signs of division are interesting for visitors. they are not a source of happiness for the people of Cyprus. This is the reality I don’t consider, when I look through rose tinted glasses at Cypriot life.

 

Nicosia- The last divided capital

 

Imagine 3 generations living in a two bed house, a kitchen where the cupboards hang of the walls and the shower is little more than a hose with a shower head on it. A place where passing trade is almost non-existent and you depend on the land for your food because the only certainty about how much you’ll earn is that it will be a meagre amount. This is a very real part of the lives of the Mayan families we saw in the village in Mexico. It’s not a part that I would desire for myself.

The key to contentment? Romanticise snippets of your own life

So rather than look wistfully at the lives of others, look instead at your own life and try to see it as someone else might. I have been doing this for the last couple of years and am definitely happier for it. Genuinely, I would say I am content. For example;

Rather than seeing my 20 minute walk to work as a nuisance (too short to drive but too far to feel really convenient) I think about how it must appear to those passing drivers and experience it as others see it. And as a result, I enjoy it so much more. Sometimes I use that time to myself deep in thought. Other times, my only thought is how lucky I am!

Rather than seeing the place I live in as boring, I’m grateful that I have to use a little creativity sometimes to entertain myself. I’m not surrounded by expensive temptations that I feel I need to deprive myself of that would come with city living. Since discovering/ remembering a love of board games, I’m always looking for an excuse to gather friends and family to play as often as possible, and have created a new facet to my life that I love.

Washing up. Now this is a challenging one. Because really, who likes washing up? How to romanticise this? I think I’ve cracked it. Most days! There are two reasons I accept and am content with washing up as part of my daily routine. The first, it keeps me in touch with the childhood memories I have of my gran and grandad who would share daily washing and drying duties. The second, it is a 15 to 20 minute certainty each day, a routine that is part of my life, and an easy item to write on a to do list and quickly cross off.

Take control of improving your life if you can’t find contentment

I’ve changed parts of my life for the better. Rather than buying the cheapest box of cereal I can find for breakfast, I start my day off on a better note with fruit juice, yoghurt, granola and fruit. The thought always seemed so idyllic and so easy to make part of my own life. It costs me more money, but the impact on my health is noticeable. I have much more energy, feel more positive, and my stomach doesn’t start growling an hour after eating!

Over to you

Ultimately, your mind is a powerful tool. You can use it to compare yourself to others constantly, and continue the pursuit of happiness, or you can put on your rose tinted spectacles to look at your own life and find some unnoticed snippet that you love!

Chime in with your thoughts! Are you guilty of comparing your life to others? Or are you already content and if so, what is your secret? 

Is sacrifice necessary for financial success?

Is sacrifice necessary for financial success?

On the road to success is sacrifice necessary

Do you want to be financially stable, financially free or just frickin’ loaded? I think most people would say yes to at least one of those.

To become one of those, and particularly to become financially free or loaded, is going to take hard work and perseverance. A very small number of people will wake up with winning lottery numbers that change their lives forever. Most of us are going to have to work at it, and for a long time at that.

One day, in 5, 10, 20 or maybe 30 years, you could wake up and financial freedom could be a reality. But only when you’ve put in the work in the preceding years. I know it sucks and I’d love to be able to lean across the metaphorical table and whisper that I have a secret but I’m afraid I don’t. And if I did, I’d probably charge for it.

I’ve read articles that say you can get where you want to be but that you have to make sacrifices. And I’ve read that you can get where you want to be without needing to make sacrifices. So which is it? Well, kind of both…

I thought a definition would be helpful here for the verb ‘to sacrifice’.

  1. offer or kill as a religious sacrifice.
  2. give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations.

The good news is I’m reasonably certain you won’t need to slaughter any goats to achieve your goals, so certainly in that sense of the word, no sacrifices necessary.

Will you need to give up something you value though? At first, yes. Only at first? Let me explain.

3 years ago, we sacrificed bi-weekly takeaways for the greater good of the holiday of a lifetime. We sacrificed the time and convenience that came with a takeaway for it’s monetary value to be used for something of greater importance. It was a difficult adjustment to make.

Fast forward three years, and takeaways are a rare treat nowadays. Why are we still making the sacrifice? Well to be honest, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. We can both cook tastier and healthier meals than we used to be able to. On our rare indulgences, we enjoy them more than we ever used to.

What else are we doing to achieve our financial goals? Driving second hand cars of course! How much of a sacrifice is that? It’s never been a sacrifice- we never had a brand new motor to give up.

When you’re accustomed to a certain standard or lifestyle, pairing back always takes some adjustment. There is a feeling of sacrifice, even if it fades with time. If you never experience something, you don’t miss it. They say it’s better than to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. But I don’t think that’s true where cars are concerned. It’s less catchy, but I think it’s better to have bought reliable second hand cars than to have lost a great chunk of value driving off a forecourt.

If you have consumer debt, that is, debt that doesn’t arise from a mortgage or student loan, for example, changing your position is going to mean sacrifice.

It’s going to mean giving up something that, up to now, you’ve valued.

Without a doubt, financial success will come easier to some than others. Some will have greater earning power, some greater self control, some fewer responsibilities vying for their attention. Some will live in areas of the country (/world) where house prices are extortionate. Some will receive regular handouts or huge inheritances. These things are all true, whether we like it or not.

There are no guaranteed quick wins. There are no magic beans that sprout beanstalks, from whence we might procure bars of gold.

If you really do want to achieve wealth, whatever that means to you, you’re going to have to work hard for it. You won’t achieve a perfect 10. You might even fall off the beam a few times.

Today is a day when you can do something about your situation. Tomorrow is the second day. And so it continues. A sacrifice today becomes normal tomorrow (not literally, but you know what I mean.)

I’ve been diligently planning my finances for 7 years. When I look ahead to my goals, they seem monumental. Sometimes they seem too big, but then I have learned and changed much in the last 7 years. Am I ready to do the same for the next 7 years? I don’t know, but I’m ready to do the same thing tomorrow and I know I’ll feel that way for the next 7 years. So I guess the answer is yes.

The truth, whether we like it or not, is that success and wealth will take a lot of hard work for the majority of us. I’m putting in the hard work because I believe it will be worth it. Do you?

Challenges of living on one income

Challenges of living on one income

There’s an obvious challenge to living on one income. Namely, living on one income. But have you thought about the non-financial challenges?

We became a one income couple last year when I got made redundant. We had been preparing for this potential eventuality and that preparation made living on one income possible. Though we worked hard for it, it doesn’t change the fact that we were lucky to have reached a position where one of our incomes would cover our essential bills.

Having designed our life and finances to be able to manage on one income, I foolishly thought we’d be in for an easy ride. Unbeknownst to me, I had a lot of hurdles ahead that my budget spreadsheet could not account for. Here are the things I found difficult as the new non-earner.

Guilt

Oh wow. The immense feeling of guilt.

Without a job, I couldn’t help but feel guilty about spending money that my husband had earned. He did his best to relieve me of my guilt and I knew that if our roles were reversed, I wouldn’t want him to feel guilty. I’d be proud to be able to support us. But when you feel like the need to be independent, to not be a burden, is at your core, it is a very difficult mindset to change.

What I did find that I could do was guard our budget even more fiercely, making sure our source of income was being spent in the best way and wasn’t being wasted.

Busyness

You would think being unemployed would lead you to a lack of things to do. It turns out that work was preventing me from doing a lot of stuff I really wanted to. Being unemployed also added pressure to get a lot of stuff done. All of a sudden I was more busy without a job than I had been with one.

Volunteering, job hunting, looking after the house, restoring an antique bench, launching a blog and looking after my husband as he recovered through two operations. It was difficult to not feel rushed off my feet, even more than when I was working!

Cooking every day

“I’ll have plenty of time to prepare amazing dishes every day”.

Me, before becoming unemployed.

Cooking every day become a thorn in my side, unwelcome punctuation each day that cut short the time I wanted to spend on other things. When our choices cease to be choices, they require rather more endurance. I enjoyed cooking less without a job than I did with a job, if you can believe that?

Saying goodbye to efficiency

It is so easy to waste time when you have it to waste. A 30 minute job would get done in 20 minutes when I was working, because I just didn’t have the time to waste. Not having a job means you can be more leisurely, and that often means you take longer to do things.

As time passed, I became less organised, in spite of my busyness. I wondered how the heck I’d worked full time and how on earth I would again.

Losing who you are

We spend a lot of time at work with the same set of colleagues. I honestly didn’t believe so much of my self worth was routed in my job.

It’s been a valuable experience just for this reason. I’ve developed a blog, I’m living more in the moment (but don’t worry, I’m saving for my future self!) and I’m investing time in my hobbies. From time to time, I think about who I am and how much of myself is linked to my job.

One day I will retire, and when that day comes, I want to have a strong sense of self.

General panic

When you get to the point of being able to manage on one income, you have plenty of spare cash to throw at savings, investments, or whatever else you fancy. When that money is gone, the feeling of flexibility goes along with the peace of mind it brought. Panic is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but I certainly felt uneasy about the challenge we would face to replenish emergency savings if they had to be spent.

You need to be more than financially prepared

Being financially prepared allows you to survive on one income. But you need to be emotionally and mentally prepared to live and thrive on one income.

I think there is value in everyone experiencing this, even if it is only for a short time. It made me realise how much money I previously wasted. It made me realise that money is more important to me than I’d previously admitted. It made me realise how much my job defined me.

Do you live on one income? What challenges do you face and how do you deal with them?

Do you want a more wild life?

Do you want a more wild life?

Rockstar Finance You’d think I’d be happy that my life was wild enough, having just returned from a 2-week-3-city break in the US. And honestly, I’ve had a blast.

Random Acts of Wildness

A few days ago, I noticed something in my twitter feed- #30DaysWild- and I have to say, it piqued my interest.

It’s a campaign from The wildlife trusts to “make room for nature this June, no matter where you are or how busy your life!”

All you have to do is a Random Act of Wildness everyday throughout June. Their website is chock-full of ideas that don’t cost you a penny. They might as well call it ‘Getting richer for free’.

The idea of the challenge is that you can take part even just by doing something small to appreciate and enjoy nature even more. Having started walking more to get out in the fresh air, I can tell you that being closer to nature makes me happier. It enhances my ‘journey’ and brings financial freedom in closer reach because spending cash is not needed.

What are you waiting for?

I was kind of frustrated to have seen it so late into May and not have long to prepare myself. This week will feel hectic and tiring, getting back into the swing of UK time and that annoying little thing called work (anyone else tempted to buy a lottery ticket when they return from travelling?) I figured I could always take part next year.

But today, I’ve given myself a good shake and told myself to stop putting off the things that I want to do. I do not need weeks or days on end to psyche myself up. I could even get started tomorrow!

Take a walk on the wild side and join me!

So this is kind of a rushed post, not on schedule and not giving you loads of notice. But you don’t need to psyche yourself up. Why not give it a go with me and try to do a Random Act of Wildness every day in June? Reading this after 1st June? Well, tomorrow is a new day. You can start whenever you want to! 🙂

And if you don’t manage it… well, life isn’t a competition. It’s about making the most and best of what you have, and you might as well do that right now!