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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Confessions of an avocado addict

Avocado millennials

(Curse you avocado. The downfall of millennials everywhere.)

So a while ago I read an article about a millionaire who had said that the reason that millennials were struggling to buy houses was because they insisted on going to brunch every weekend to eat their ‘smashed avocado on toast.’

‘Rubbish’, I thought, as I had another bite of my mashed (which is totally different to ‘smashed’) avocado on Waitrose olive bread.

No seriously – that’s actually what I was eating.

There were a number of things about this statement which irritated me. Firstly the assumption that the reason this generation is struggling to buy houses is not because the housing market has rocketed to such insane levels that wages simply can’t keep up with. Nor perhaps that previous generations had significantly less tuition costs than this generation, whilst at the same time facing an increasing expectation from employers that you will have a degree. No, clearly it’s because the millennial generation are feckless spenders who like to waste their money enjoying life instead of socking away all their pennies under the mattress. THAT’S the problem.

‘Grrr,’ I thought. As did many others.

Now apparently I am a millennial. I don’t really know what that means, but I’m reliably informed that I am one. And this millennial decided many moons ago that she would like a house. So my partner and I made that our goal. We had no idea if or when we would reach it. But we worked really really f-ing hard, and saved everything, and sacrificed a ton of things with that goal in mind.

We definitely had some luck and help along the way (although I do believe you make your own luck to an extent) and we did eventually manage to buy our first house, in the South-East of England, when we were both still on tiny wages (him an apprentice and me in training for my current role). We were in our mid-twenties. This was way sooner than we’d ever dreamed of.

So now skip forward to a point several months after that article was published. I’d now decided to tackle our ever growing pile of house renovation debt, in an attempt to meet our new goal of debt-freeness. And you can imagine my irritation when I finally added up the cost of all those avocado breakfasts and realised that maybe – maybe – that bloody millionaire had actually had a point after all! Goddammit!

Turns out that the little things really do add up. While the amounts in question may seem so small as to be insignificant, actually it is those little costs, those treats, the ‘one-offs-which-are-actually-pretty-regular’ costs, that eat up all your spare cash. And that is extra cash that you could be adding to your savings or paying towards your debt.

So if you are truly committed to your financial goal, then yes – I’m afraid for now those lovely things may have to go. Sacrifice. It’s a necessary part of success.

So here we are. I still think that the ‘avocado issue’ trivialises the real uphill struggle faced by this generation in affording what the previous generation have managed fairly easily. But now at least I am saying that while eating my daily bowl of shreddies instead of avocado on toast. That is sacrifice, my friends.

Having said that – oh avocado, how I miss you! Shreddies are just not the same… Fear not, we will meet again. Just as soon as this millennial has cleared her debt.

What is your financial end goal?

Financial goal

(Who needs a face to get to the finish line?)

Do you know where you are going in life?

Sorry – that came out a little more deep and meaningful than I intended.

What I mean is, when you think about your financial situation, do you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve? A financial goal?

If not, then I highly recommend sitting down and really facing up to that question. If you are in a hole of debt so deep you can’t see the sky, then I understand that it’s not easy to have that conversation with yourself. But actually, in your case the answer should be really simple: get rid of that awful black cloud in your life. Get debt free. Full stop.

If you don’t have debt then the answer might be trickier to land on. Do you want to get a deposit for a house together? Maybe you want to pay off your mortgage? Get an emergency fund sorted? Build a savings pot? Save for a special holiday? Save for ANY holiday?

It could be any number of things but I think it’s really important to settle on what it is that you want to achieve – because how else are you going to identify the steps you need to take towards it?

I once heard a saying, “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it.” And it’s so true. If you want to achieve something, you have to aim for it first and then go headlong towards it.

For me, there have been various goals at stages in my life – including almost all of those listed above at one point or another. Today, at the moment, it’s clear the tens of thousands of pounds of debt that I’m currently in. I do have longer term goals I’d like to achieve after that, but until the debt is gone these are complete pipe dreams.

So I’ll put my head down and push towards that goal. And every decision I take should be with that goal in mind. Easy to say, not easy to do. But I’ll never achieve it if I don’t try. And neither will you.

So what are your financial goals you would like to achieve?