Attitude is half the battle

Saving money

(“Maybe if I stare into the distance for long enough, my savings will magically grow…”)

Saving money can feel like a thankless task sometimes. Especially if you have a goal in mind that is so large as to feel nearly unachievable.

I remember when my partner and I started saving towards a house deposit. We were living with my mum at the time to save cash and it didn’t look as if we were going to be moving out anytime soon.

I remember at one point we were sat in our local pub having a rare (cheap) meal out, desperately trying to work out when or how we might be in a position to move out into our own place. At our current saving rate it looked pretty bleak. It felt like we were never going to get there.

But we kept at it – saving, little by little. Everything got cut to the bone in order to squirrel away just a little bit more. And before we knew it we had over £10,000 in the bank. I couldn’t believe it.

We did everything we could to get there. We sold everything we could think of (including downgrading a car) and we barely ever went out. We had setbacks along the way, with unexpected costs that really hit the savings. That was always tough. We took no holidays abroad. Ever. Instead we would take long weekends occasionally somewhere in the UK that we’d save up for. We’d set a budget of £150 or so, and I’d make it a challenge to plan a fun weekend somewhere within that budget. We had some of the best times this way (Cheddar Gorge in October being a total winner, by the way. No really – we got lucky with the weather).

But, as you probably know £10,000 is not a house deposit these days. Nowhere near. At least, not in the South East of England!

So at some point we got creative and ended up using our money to go in with my mum and her partner on a house renovation project. But that’s a story for another time. The point is that, even if we hadn’t done that, we’d have kept plugging away until we got to where we needed to be. And that’s the point really.

I was speaking to someone the other day who is basically in the same place that my partner and I were when we started saving. He has a small amount in the bank (a few thousand pounds from inheritance) but nowhere near enough. But instead of sacrificing and saving, he lives a very spendy lifestyle – expensive food; going out drinking in pubs; pricey fitness activities; lots of travel. Even a weekend shopping trip to Paris! WTF?!

When I asked whether he was saving at all, given that he wants to buy a house in the near future, he said that the amount he would need to save was so big that there was, “no point”. Saving the small amounts I was talking about would make, “no difference”!

Well duh! Not with that attitude it won’t. I mean, really – I don’t think he could be more wrong. Yes, the amount he needs to save seems huge – beyond reach. But, to steal an advertising slogan here, ‘Every little helps.’ It really really does. It starts to add up in ways you couldn’t imagine.

At some point the money magic seems to kick in and as the savings pot grows, it seems to attract more and more money and grow faster and faster as you get nearer your target. Don’t ask me how, but suddenly you seem to find money almost anywhere – e.g you get an unexpected tax rebate, or more than you were expecting from an aunt for your birthday. And these little extra amounts really boost that savings stash.

I don’t know. I probably sound a bit gaga on that one, but it’s always been my experience so I can’t disregard it!

Anyway, the point is, if your attitude is that there is no point and you make no effort, then of course your savings aren’t going to grow and it will continue to feel impossible. But if you really try and are prepared to make some sacrifices to meet that goal, it is AMAZING what you can achieve.

Im having to remind myself of this again at the moment as I now stare at my seemingly impossible debt, which feels like it will never be paid off, and tell myself that, little by little, we’ll get there. And probably sooner than I think.

Can’t wait for the money magic to kick in on this one. The sooner the bMetter I say!

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What kills your money saving?

Snooze button

(Ah snooze button. My nemesis! We meet again…)

What is your number one enemy in the ‘you vs. money’ fight?

For me – it’s organisation. Now I don’t just mean keeping track of my finances and control of my cash. That’s super important too but I’m actually not too bad at that. I keep a spreadsheet and I quite enjoy plugging in all the amounts I’ve spent – makes me feel in control and I can see where I’m at.

No, I’m talking day to day organisation and life planning. For me, this is the number one thing that leads me to spend unnecessary money.

If I’m honest I think it’s probably going to be something I always struggle with. I’m that irritating person who is always 10 minutes late to every personal appointment or engagement. I just can’t seem to leave myself enough time to actually get to where I’m going. I’m always squeezing in one more thing to do before setting off.

Interestingly I don’t do this at work. Different priorities maybe? I don’t know. Either way, it’s not good.

I also procrastinate. A lot. Something that could be done now, almost always gets put off until later, and then probably squeezed in at a point when I’m actually supposed to be going to do something else! Vicious circle right there.

Vicious circle(Grrrr – a vicious circle. Sorry, sorry. Couldn’t help myself)

And boy do I pay the price!! I’ll give you an example:

On a good day I’ll get up at the planned time, get dressed etc. and grab my pre-made lunch from the fridge before going to catch the early train. I’ll park in the free spaces and walk to the station. Then, once in London, I’ll walk to work. No spend. If I walk back from work as well, I can easily have a no spend day without even thinking about it.

On a bad (read, normal) day I’ll hit the snooze button too many times. I won’t grab my lunch, either because I’m in a rush and I forget it or because I couldn’t be bothered to make one the night before and thought I’d have time in the morning (see: procrastination). I’ll have to park at the station because I don’t have time to walk from the free spaces (£), and once in London I’ll have to get the bus because I caught the slightly later train and don’t have time to walk (£). Later I’ll have to buy lunch (£) because I didn’t bring my own.

And there. In a few easy, barely even registered steps, I’ve actually spent quite a lot of money. Parking is about £8, bus £1.50, lunch about £5. Total cost for not getting up 15 mins earlier: £14.50. Ouch.

If this was every day I’m down nearly £300 over the month. £300 just for hitting the snooze button! Jeez. That’s an expensive habit.

And sadly this is often too normal for me. It’s improved a lot though since I started tracking my spending and realised just where my money was trickling away to. I genuinely couldn’t work out why I was always sinking into my overdraft – I wasn’t buying anything! There were no lines of lovely Jimmy Choos in my closet as evidence of where my money was going.

It was both enlightening and depressing to see just actually it was just being whittered away on mundane, normal life. Nothing special. Nothing to show for it. Just hundreds being burned each month on stuff that could easily be addressed.

So yeah. I now do make an effort to make lunches. And to try and catch the earlier train. It’s a rare day when I don’t walk to work, either there or back – if not both. But I’ll be honest, life is pretty crazy right now what with house renovations and a less than ideal living situation, and the moment things get stressful I do find myself falling back into bad habits. And that costs.

So here’s to a new month, a new pay cheque and trying to hit the snooze button just one time less… See you bright and early in the morning!