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A little while back I had a moment of realisation about this blog. It felt like for a long time I had been trying to “fit in with the crowd.”
There are a lot of fantastic bloggers out there writing about their debt-free journey, saving for a mortgage or aiming for financial independence. Although I resonate with a part of their stories, I feel like mine is a little different.
For the last couple of years, my husband and I have been saving to take our family around the world. But on two part-time incomes from very average jobs.
We haven’t rejected goals to pay off our mortgage, achieve financial freedom or to stay debt-free, but we have made this our focus in the short term.
Although our goal may be a little different, the steps we have taken to get where we now are very much the same as those clearing credit card debt or wanting to retire early. Therefore, I thought I would share, in the hope that it helps you achieve your dreams too.
There have been plenty of moments in my life when I’ve made financial decisions that I wanted to pretend hadn’t happened. Purchases where I’d spent just a bit more than I’d wanted too. A credit card bill that was the result of a fun month.
In these moments, I would find myself not looking at my bank account. Or doing some weird maths in my head to make it seem less bad.
But you can’t do this when you are aiming for those big goals. You have got to be money honest.
If you treat yourself then you’ve got to acknowledge that. What made you want to treat yourself? What does this mean for your finances?
Looking at these decisions straight on makes you accountable for them. You also know that next time that you make a poor decision, you’ll have to deal with that too and that acts a deterrent.
Record everything. I keep track of everything that comes in and everything that goes out. I check this against my accounts to ensure that I haven’t missed anything.
Just like with the previous point, it keeps you in check. When you write things down it is easier to spot your spending/income patterns.
If you can identify patterns then you can work on improving them and making positive changes. For example, if you find that shortly after payday, you always get a takeaway, then you can look for a cheaper alternative, such as a frozen pizza.
Keeping records also motivates you to see how far you have come. When you see your savings grow, or your debt decrease, you’ll give yourself that extra boost you need to keep going.
This is a big one for us. We learnt to live on the bare minimum that we could without feeling deprived or hard done by.
Every month, I would look through our recurring payments, so utilities and memberships and check that they were still serving us. If we still wanted them, I’d check to see if I could get them any cheaper.
TV subscriptions was a good one for this. We would find that some months we would use NowTV all the time, but realise we hadn’t watched Netflix at all. In this case, I would cancel Netflix, until we wanted it again.
Everything was put under scrutiny every month. Car journeys: how could we do less? Laundry: can we dry our clothes outside more? Internet: is there a better deal? EVERY MONTH.
There were only a handle of months when there wasn’t something that could be removed or reduced.
With our living expenses right down, we were living just under half of the money that we made from our main jobs. This meant that the difference and any side hustle income was for saving/investing.
I made the decision that any side hustle money was to be put in a separate pot. I’m not what motivated me to do this in the first place but it worked wonders.
Seeing my side hustle income grow independently made me realise how hard I hard been working to achieve it. It also inspired me to make more.
When the figure didn’t grow much over one month, it would give me a kick up the bottom to find more ways of producing income.
Oh, how the temptation to just book a little holiday was great! Being so determined to achieve something can be tiring and you feel like you deserve a break.
The trick is not to take a financial break. Don’t deviate from you financial good habits to provide yourself with a treat. These short term luxuries will not make you feel good in the long term.
The best thing to do is to get a break that doesn’t cost you money. Or a treat that you can get for free.
This could be giving yourself a bit of an in-house pamper, going to a park to read a book by yourself or something else (preferably that doesn’t sound as bad as these.)
You won’t be perfect at these on day one. You won’t be perfect on day 1000. We aren’t! You will have days when you forget to update your spreadsheet or the kids drive you wild and you order a takeaway.
It is ok! But with all habits, practise and repetition is the key. Keep trying and you will get there. Soon you’ll be a complete pro!
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.
Looking After Your Pennies is an eco-friendly personal finance blog written and managed by Charlotte Jessop.
I write on a variety of topics including frugal lifestyle, eco-friendly living, money making ideas and generally how to make your money go further.
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