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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!

Money is for spending too

Money is for spending too

I work hard to earn money, I budget carefully to save money, and I’m getting a good grip on investing. But you have one life and I’m going to do my best to enjoy it!

I normally write about those first three things- earning, saving and investing- and give you a glimpse into some of my leisure pursuits too (and why I think they’re mostly frugal!) but whilst my twitter icon is a tortoise, I am an actual human being and shock horror, there are some things I like doing that cost me money.

I like spending money sometimes, ok?

Even walking costs me money now and then, cos I like to invest in a little thing called walking shoes. Also, country pubs are excellently placed for lunch!

I’m pretty disciplined at not spending money on everyday things, like takeaways, cinema trips or new handbags (although see note above re being human, I do sometimes indulge). The main thing that motivates me is the opportunity to save all that cash I could easily have let slip through my fingers and spend a wadge of it on something a m a z i n g.

I have one large indulgence that I know I’m lucky to be able to afford and that is travelling. Whilst budgeting doesn’t go out of the window, I do what I can to make sure there’s enough in the budget for us to enjoy the holiday we want to do, whether it’s a long weekend staying with friend in Edinburgh (super bargain), a break touring northern Spain (great value) or splashing out on a trip to the US of A (well I am 30 this year!)

The more you can do to get a grip on your spending and reduce your bills, the more you can use your money to get where you want to go, metaphorically and literally.

I read some awesome finance blogs and honestly find so many of them inspiring. I started out as a good saver, but I’m onto investing now and just generally have a stronger hold of my money. But not all of what I read is for me, as I’m sure not every word I write will be for you.

I don’t want to work until I drop but I’m not desperate to retire as soon as physically possible, so I pay into my pension, invest into my stocks and shares ISA, keep my emergency fund topped up, and indulge in something I absolutely love as often as I can.

Indulging in my passions

This year (tomorrow in fact!!), I have an incredible trip to New York, Boston and Philadelphia planned and I am so excited! You might read that and think it’s beyond your wildest dreams, or you might think ‘so what?’. Our lives and finances are all different.

It’s ok to spend money, that’s it’s purpose after all.

I’d love to share a post on how to enjoy New York, Boston, Philadelphia on a budget. I’ll be operating on one, but one that I know will let me do the things that are important. So I think, instead, I’ll share the cool free stuff we get up to, the stuff really worth spending your money and time on and if they’re anything I’d avoid. Maybe I’ll even be telling you a million and one things you have to buy or spend on whilst you’re there. Well, like I said, money is for spending too!

I’m sure you’re only human as well- I’d love to hear your indulgences. Jealousy inducing travel experiences (mostly) welcomed! Just give me time to recover from jet lag to respond! 😉 

What if we walked more?

What if we walked more?

I’ve decided to walk more. I decided last week and have added a walk into each day since. I’m going away next week (eeek!) so each day will be filled with a LOT of walking. It’ll be handy to build up my stamina. I’m not sure if that is why I decided to walk more, or if it was an afterthought.

Have you ever thought, what if we walked more? Not in place of driving, to tackle a challenging trail or to achieve a lofty goal. Just… walked?

I had this thought and then hit obstacles. Mental roadblocks, if you will.

Obstacle 1. Wednesday

It was Wednesday when I made the decision and almost stopped before I had started, as a couple of errands took up a chunk of the evening. It felt important though, so I threw my water bottle in my bag and headed out for a short brisk walk. I didn’t walk as far as I’d intended to after bumping into some friends and spending 20 minutes talking. Even so, it was worth it to get out and interact. I’ve since mapped my walk, and it turns out I did 1.24 miles. It’s not far but further than I would have gone sat tap-tap-tapping away on the laptop.

Obstacle 2. Thursday

On Thursday, I again had doubts. With an osteopath appointment in the evening and the prospect of feeling a little bruised and therefore not in the mood for walking, I decided I’d use my lunch to walk. After eating my packed lunch quickly, I had 45 minutes to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. I was surprised my route clocked up 2.46 miles. Turns out you can cover a fair amount of ground in 45 minutes.

Obstacle 3. Friday

Friday again was a struggle. It’s a wonder I get anywhere with so many doubts! I thought about how I could wangle in my new extra walk and decided detours between errands was the way to go.  I’d have preferred to have covered more than 3/4 of a mile, but I still felt the fresh air and exercise did me some good 🙂

Getting over the obstacles

If you’re like me, you may occasionally frequently get described as stubborn. I decided to be stubborn about factoring in more walking to my days.

Walking is too often an ‘event’ and it’s my fault. I use language like ‘lets go on a walk’ and ‘we should do that walk one day’. I talk about walking when I could just get up and walk. I walk to and from work each day, but my thoughts are tied up in what the day will bring or what is on my to-do list for the evening. On my new walks, I’ve been clearing my mind and enjoying where I am.

Like I said, this walking more isn’t really a mission or challenge. I don’t have a goal as such. I just want to live in, be aware of and enjoy the moment more. I don’t want to look back and regret I spent my 30’s looking at a screen in so much of my spare time.

People spend their time reminiscing about childhood and dreaming about retirement. But the messy bit in the middle, the bit we’re in right now, this is the fun bit. This is the best bit of our lives.

I’d love to take credit for coming up with something so deep, but this is my husband’s pearl of wisdom. I think he’s right. I know I’m guilty of spending time thinking of the past and planning the future. Being in and enjoying the moment, enjoying the good days and even the dull and difficult days is what I’m turning my attention to more and more.

What if we walked more?

I would love discussions with people about where we’ve walked to, what we noticed, new routes we’ve found, and where we’ll go next. Rather than about the latest episode of prison break.

Maybe it’s just me, but even when I’m switched off and relaxing at home, I’m not really. In my mind, I know there are a hundred things I’m not doing at that moment that I think I should be doing.

Going for a walk feels like me caring enough about myself and my emotional and physical well being to take some time to look after myself. I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows they should exercise more, but is too wrapped up in ironing, cleaning, washing dishes, mowing lawns, etc. If our health is so important, why does it rank below washing dishes on our to do list?

Do you know what I reckon? I think you’d be better off eating off disposable crockery for a week so you don’t have a thing to wash, and using that time and energy to just walk instead. I reckon the following week, your energy levels will have improved enough to handle both. That’s a pretty small investment in your health, if you ask me. Cheaper than joining a gym even.

I think a lot would be better if we walked more. Physical fitness, stress, energy levels, emotional well being, our finances, relationships, vitamin D levels, sleep quality, awareness of our environment, community. I’ll be honest, I think Amazon and Netflix would suffer for it. But it doesn’t feel such a loss, compared to the gains we’ll get.

Enough nattering from me for now, I’m off out for a quick walk before bed time!

What do you think? Are you up for walking more?

 

 

 

How to stop bad days ruining good money habits

How to stop bad days ruining good money habits

Bad days, weeks, months and even years are a part of life. Money more than likely isn’t your chief concern when you’re having a bad day but it can be so frustrating to see you financial plans delayed or destroyed when you’re working so hard. It can be especially damaging if you were already struggling to get a grip on your day to day finances.

But how do you save money in sub-optimal conditions? Or to put it another way, how do you keep hold of your hard earned cash when life is throwing shovels full of shit in your direction?

I’ve revisited this post a few times, sometimes to add to the advice and other times as a reminder to myself. When I originally posted it I almost postponed publishing because I couldn’t polish it as much as I would like thanks to my ongoing back problems. Just do your best on the day you’re in. There will be opportunities in the future to do better.

It’s easy to save money when you had a great night’s sleep, a productive day in the office, the sun is shining and your pre-cooked bolognaise is defrosting in the kitchen. At least, it’s easier. If the day has gone well, it’s easier to push through tiredness to do something financially sensible. It’s easier to avoid the pull towards retail therapy and mindless spending. But saving in sub-optimal conditions? Now that’s a lot tougher.

There have been swathes of time where I’ve not found it easy to make good financial decisions. Where circumstances have been sub-optimal and saving has been hard work. Like I mentioned above, I have problems with my back after a seemingly innocent injury a few years ago. Until this point, I had always recognised how fortunate I was to have my health, although it is something we cannot fully appreciate until we lose it. I woke one morning at 3am in agony and that pain stayed with me for several weeks.

Some days I have a searing pain down my shoulder blade has a searing pain that saps my energy all day.

The question is, when life hits us with inevitable challenges, how to we find the energy and focus to make good financial decisions, when what we feel like doing is eating a tray of krispy cremes and ignoring the fact that the car insurance renewal is due and the price you’ve been quoted is a joke?

Here are a few suggestions to stop bad days ruining good financial habits:

Buy the right treats

It is easy to waste money on things intended to lift your spirits but make sure you’re spending money in the right places. A new handbag, pair of shoes or PS4 game isn’t going to help your situation (although the PS4 games would at least provide some distraction). Eating a tray of krispy cremes may sound good in theory, but neglecting your health is going to have negative consequences overall.

Instead, use your money to make your situation easier. When my back was bad, we’d buy microwavable rice pouches as well as fresh pasta and sauces to make cooking in manageable. We spent more on groceries, but we still ate well without eating out or buying takeaways all of the time. 

Eat a banana and drink some water

If you can choose a banana when what you really want is a bar of chocolate, and a glass of water when you want a coffee or can of coke, it’s not only cheaper but it is better for your health. Keeping yourself from becoming sluggish with a sugar crash will help stop you making lazy decisions that cost you money.

Know when saving money will cost you money

You could expend a load of energy making a meal from scratch for the lowest price possible. But if that leaves you without the energy and motivation to even lift a finger in the kitchen the following day, the cost of a takeaway will far exceed the money you saved the previous night.

It might not be the very cheapest option, but purchasing a few more convenience foods mean you’ll avoid caving in and buying a takeaway and will save you money in the long run.

Keep your goals manageable

It is better to keep inching forward than draw to a halt. Don’t expect yourself to move mountains everyday and don’t give yourself too hard a time if you spend more than you would like; it is only money, after all!

Consider your larger goals and what small things you can do (or avoid doing) to get there.

Money can feel completely irrelevant when you’re in a lot of physical pain or carrying a heavy emotional burden. I find it helpful to have non-money related goals that were cheap or inexpensive, but that helped me deal with the situation.

For example, when I first hurt my back and couldn’t work, I would get up in the morning, have a shower and get dressed (a challenge in itself). Then I would go for a short walk before lunch. Achieving these things helped the physical pain, made me feel more positive, and didn’t cost me anything to maintain.

Give yourself some leeway

Beating yourself up or feeling guilty that you’re spending more than you want to (or saving less) will leave you feeling demotivated and you might find it takes longer to get back to a place where you can push yourself to save more and spend less.

Accept that your situation means you’re going to let yourself have a little more flexibility (remember- you’re in control) for the good of your own emotional and physical health. Because lets face it, financial wealth isn’t much good if you don’t have those other two things.

 

These are the things I have learned over time and I’m sure they will serve me again in the future. If I can find out how to completely avoid bad days, I’ll let you know (maybe this is how I’ll make my millions?) I really hope this is helpful if you’re struggling to find the energy and motivation to save money when life and events conspire against you. If you have any other suggestions, I would absolutely love to hear them. But right now, I’m going to lie down and rest.

How have you kept on track with your financial plans when everything’s going pear-shaped or have you let them fall by the wayside? 

Wanna get rich? Hitch a ride!

Wanna get rich? Hitch a ride!

One day a few years ago, I was idly standing by the roadside, looking back how far I’d come and feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

I’d been auto enrolled in a pension since I was 19, I socked money into savings each month, I had an automatic over payment set up for the mortgage and had a decent budget that was improving year on year. Sure I could have been doing better, but I wasn’t doing too badly either. You can probably tell I felt pretty smug about it all.

I was minding my own business when along came this American guy with a mustache on a bike. “Hop in the trailer” he called. “I’ll give you a lift”.

As Pete peddled away and I rattled around in the trailer, he asked me what the hell I was doing about my debt emergency. My debt emergency? I didn’t have an emergency. I only had a mortgage. I overpaid every month. We could almost survive on one of our wages. What was the emergency? We might as well live a little since we were doing so well. We’d earned bottles of wine here, deserved meals out there, a cinema trip now and then, and we do love travel…

Did you hear the sound of a penny dropping then?

For so long, I thought of our luxuries as living a little, when in fact we were living a lot. We we were spending a shed load of cash that we could have been growing in investments or wiping out our mortgage debt. We were living a life that was an “Exploding volcano of wastefulness.” I tried to keep quiet and listen- partly to learn what this mysterious guy had to say but partly to avoid getting called a complainy-pants. As time passed, I got used to the bumpiness of that trailer. Sure, it was uncomfortable. But a little discomfort is good for you. Hitching that ride made me a little richer. In time, it will add up to becoming a lot richer.

I hopped out of the trailer feeling I’d traveled a million miles from where I’d been. Figuring how far hitching that first ride had taken me, I cautiously stuck out my thumb for the next driver going my way. My next driver was another mysterious sort. A British accent, cutting with sarcasm and with a surprising taste in music. Asking what we were listening to, he told me it was “Now that’s what I call financial independence“. I nodded, telling him I’d got “Now that’s what I call Christmas” at home. He didn’t comment.

He went on to talk about ridiculous spending stopping people from being rich. I wasn’t guilty of getting tattoos, betting or even wasting days in shopping centres, but he made an excellent point. Millions of people do spend money on ridiculous things. Some of the money I spent was on ridiculous things. I was doing OK. But I could do a hell of a lot better than OK. Doing better than OK would give me the option of escaping the prison camp.

After hitching my second ride, I was on a roll and my eyes were opened to getting to a better destination and having a better journey. That’s when I met Ty. He gave me a high-5 as I hopped in. He and his wife we forging a path for their family. They were extremely disciplined, not only thriving on one income, but chalking up some serious investments too-  getting rich quickish, he called it. A story he told really stuck with me. He told me about how when his Grandpa had passed away, 80% of his and his Grandma’s items were discarded.

I thought about my home, rooms filled with the things we collect, things forgotten, things kept for a ‘just in case’ moment that may never arrive. I’d love to think I have a long and healthy life ahead of me, but if I do meet my maker sooner than I’d like, it would suck for my parents to have to deal with excess amounts of crap we’re accumulating. It was a kick up the arse to get rid of stuff and to stop accumulating more. I’m not even sure if I said goodbye as I got out of the car, my brow still furrowed in thought.

 

Without really thinking, I held out my thumb to see who I could hitch hike with next. Was there really much further left in my journey? By the time Amanda pulled up, I’d used my redundancy package to payoff the final bit of my mortgage and was living on one income (much harder than I was anticipating, it has to be said) whilst looking for a new job. Thriving on one income was something Amanda knew a lot about. Well, she’d been doing it for 16 years! She was telling me about her awesome weekend where they’d gone the whole two days without spending a penny, and they’d had a blast. At the time, I couldn’t fathom how 2 days of no spending money could change your future finances. It was later that I came to realise it wasn’t really about those 2 days at all. It’s about regularly choosing to do free things and making not spending more normal. Getting rich centsibly. She even invited me to tell my story and listened with interest.

 


 

If you wanna get rich, there is no magical solution. There’s working hard, saving hard and looking at things in the right way to make both of those things easier.  When I was younger, I wanted my success to be all my own, but as I get older, I realise how foolish it is to ignore the wisdom of others.

There are countless bloggers out there all sharing their experiences and view points that you can learn a lot from. And that’s coming from a smug know-it-all like me! Some won’t be going in the same direction as you.

There will be a few who drive through a puddle as they go past you or don’t pay you the slightest attention, as though you’re a bug on their windshield. Luckily they are not the majority. Unless your aim is to be a rich jackass too, just let them keep driving and be glad you’re not obliged to listen to how awesome they are.

Hopefully there will be people who you can, in turn, give a metaphorical lift to.

By hitching a ride with these guys, my finances have improved, but more importantly, my life is richer too. I can see excesses more clearly, I have less desire to keep buying junk, and I find not spending money incredibly liberating. Perhaps you’re happy cruising along on your own, but you will get so much from listening to people who have already traveled along your route or gone a different way that you didn’t know about.

I have been particularly inspired by Mr Money Mustache, The Escape Artist, Ty from Get Rich Quickish and Amanda from Centsibly Rich (all featured above, in case it wasn’t obvious). You should hitch a ride with them if you haven’t already.

 

I feel like the metaphor would be incomplete without mentioning the driver of the (financial) party bus, J-Money, who’s gathered the financial rockstars together in one place. Everyone is different and you might not like all the songs, but there is bound to be one that talks to you… And that one might be the one that helps you get rich.

So tell me, is there anyone you’ve hitched a ride with that I should hail down next?

What to do on a no spend weekend with kids

What to do on a no spend weekend with kids

Whilst it may be simple to have a no spend weekend with kids, it’s most certainly not easy.

Kids may not like doing the things we adults do to spend money- like food shopping for instance- and are happy with simple things, but it’s much more difficult to organise pulling off a no spend weekend with kids.

It’s easy to say ‘kids enjoy the free stuff just as much as expensive stuff’. It’s difficult, as adults to follow our own advice.

We want to make sure they’re exposed to a range of environments that we think are good for them- either for fun, development or both, and are happy to pay for that.

I’m guilty of telling my sister that she doesn’t have to spend money to entertain the girls, but as soon as I have them for a day, my mind jumps to all the cool places that we can visit and the free stuff doesn’t feel as fun to me!

I know that kids enjoy the free stuff- I was a kid once myself- and I’m sure you know that too! Whether you’re ready to tackle the mountainess challenge of a no spend weekend with kids in tow, or just want ideas for a few activities where you can keep your purse or wallet tucked away, check out my list of ideas for a no spend (family!) weekend.

32 things to do on a no spend weekend with kids

  1. Pond dipping- you can make your own net and download a guide to insects here 
  2. Feed the ducks
  3. Go on a bike ride
  4. Play in the park
  5. Launch a rocket
  6. Fly a kite
  7. Make a kite if you don’t already have one
  8. Craft recycling- Dig out cereal boxes, loo roll tubes, egg boxes and get creative!
  9. Play board games
  10. Make a new board game
  11. Make a treasure hunt
  12. Play hide the pegs in the garden
  13. Wash the car… just don’t expect perfection from little helpers!!
  14. Go on a nature walk
  15. Creative fun with a cardboard box
  16. Visit the library
  17. Watch a movie (you’ll probably be able to borrow for free from the library)
  18. Try geocaching
  19. Check out your store cupboard and bake up some tasty treats
  20. Have a picnic
  21. Make greetings cards
  22. Go to the beach (or a nearby play area with a sandpit)
  23. Visit a museum that has free entry
  24. Go for a stroll, walk or hike
  25. Make a bird kebab
  26. Play pooh sticks
  27. Go puddle jumping
  28. Make an obstacle course- indoor or outdoor
  29. Do some gardening (even if that just means digging a hole and watering the lawn!)
  30. Visit a pet shop
  31. Read and make up stories
  32. Take part in or watch local events in your town or city, like car shows, morris dancing or carnivals!

Ready to give it a shot?

It may not be as tough as you think! I have 5 simple tips for how to have a successful no spend weekend to help you along the way too!

If it seems to daunting right now or you wanna save this for later, why not pin it?

Have you tried a no spend weekend with kids and how did you get on? Was is easy or hard and what did they think of their weekend?

When being too good at saving is bad

When being too good at saving is bad

I know it sounds dramatic, but my obsession with saving nearly got me physically hurt last week. I’d never thought there was such a thing as being too good at saving or that saving too much could be a bad thing.

“Everything in moderation”, my Gran used to say, and I think that’s true with saving money.

Quite recently, something happened that made me realise I’m prioritising saving above something much more important. It’s really stupid. I could honestly kick myself.

So it’s a really dull story, and I’m glad about that. Because if this story had a different ending, it wouldn’t be very good at all.

How being a real cheapskate could have physically hurt

It’s about a saucepan. Please don’t stop reading yet, I promise it’s short and sweet…

It’s about a saucepan than we’ve had a long time. It’s fair to say our saucepan had seen better days. The base was seeping water a little, so if it hadn’t dried out completely after washing, it would gently hiss on the hob. The handles were plastic, and had started to flake a little underneath. Although it had seen better days, I figured it still had lots more life in it.

Just because stuff has seen better days, doesn’t mean it’s ready to get chucked out though, right? Well, in this case, it was wrong.

Last week when I was cooking dinner, I picked it from the pan stand and the saucepan clattered to the floor, leaving me holding only the handle. Where it had appeared flaky on the outside, it had well and truly crumbled on the inside. Had it held on a little longer, it could have been a pan of boiling water that had clattered to the floor. Another day, and I could have had one of my nieces in the kitchen with me. The thought of what could have been turns my stomach.

And just like that I realised how bloody stupid I’d been. If anything had happened to my husband or to any of my family because I was acting all frugal whilst actually being cheap and not buying a pan, I don’t know how I could forgive myself.

Later, I looked at our other saucepan, the £12 one we got from Ikea 7 years ago. It’s served us pretty well, but the plastic is showing signs of degradation. I was close to keeping it for a bit longer, before reminding myself what had just happened.

It’s just money. Sometimes you have to spend it when you’d rather not

And so, I have bought myself two new pans. Two pans that I should probably have bought a long time ago. Two that will hopefully last a long time- I did my research- but if they need to replaced, I’ll replace them as needed. Once I’ve had chance to thoroughly test them, I’ll let you know what I went for (if they’re any good)!

Whether you’re brilliant at saving or if you’re trying to get your financial act together, don’t forget the things that are important in life. Hint: The answer isn’t money.

I’d love to know if you’ve had any moments where your intended frugality has been cheapness or you’ve realised your money isn’t being put to work on things that are actually important. Surely I can’t be the only person to have been so silly with money?