Sunday, 10 June 2012

Getting off the treadmill. part 2

Warning - this post might be a bit disjointed, I have spent a week playing around with it, and now I need to press the publish button and move it on. There is reference to another blogger here, but this is because she asked a question. Most of the post is not aimed at anyone in particular.

There was such a lot of interesting feedback on my 'Getting off the Treadmill', post, that I feel inspired to add a bit more to it  It seems to me that there are two main reasons why people might tighten their belt and watch their pennies. The first is that they have decided to get off the treadmill, reduce the stress of working all hours, and reduce their spending. A self imposed downshifting if you want to use the buzz words. The second reason is that their circumstances have changed and through no fault of their own, they find themselves with less disposable income. It may be the loss of a job, a decline in their health, or the breakdown of a relationship which has caused their financial difficulties.

I belong in the first camp, I chose to work less hours because I was no longer enjoying my job. After my operation in 2008 I lost my job because the depot closed, and I spent the last seven months of my working life on Job Seekers Allowance. This was reduced to £36 a week, because I had an insurance policy which paid my mortgage. It was a real struggle to make ends meet, I watched my bank balance shrink drastically. But to be perfectly honest I wasn't particularly bothered about my loss of income, I knew I wouldn't starve, I just had to be more carefull. Getting to 60 was a relief, the state pension kicked in and I knew I could afford my outgoings if I was very carefull with my spending.

Three years on and I am still surviving, thanks to all the practice I have had on managing on less. Wean, you ask if I have a secret or if I really am Wonderwoman. To give you the figures my state pension is £7985 a year. I qualify for the full amount because I had 41 years of contributions. On top of this I get a small private top up pension (taxed at source), which I paid into in the eighties. Net it is £968 a year, so just under £9,000 a year in total. I am also eligible for Council Tax Credit because my income is below their threshold, and I have no savings.

Reading your blog, Wean, my outgoings are quite a lot lower than yours. You are in rented accommodation. I pay £78 mortgage a month. I don't know how much you pay but I would struggle to pay the rents up here. I have stopped paying anything off my mortgage capital as the interest rate is low, and I want to spend any cash left over on days out/holidays, and to save up for my next car. Wean you have more cats than I have so you will be paying more than me in vets fees, food, etc. I am going to stick with two for a while because I can't afford any more.  You appear to be paying a lot more than me for your utilities. Maybe your home comforts are a priority for you, and heating is important. My house is a basic shell which provides me with shelter, I prefer to save my money for going out.

In answer to your question, there is no secret and I am not Wonderwoman. My good life is all down to the choices I have made and it works for me. It is also down to my attitude, to be happy with what I have, and not yearn for anything more. It is a mistake to look around and see what other people have, and base your own aspirations on what you see.

Right, let's look at the second camp, those who find themselves in difficult financial circumstances, through something that has happened to them in their life. The feeling that you cannot do anything about things which are beyond your control is not very nice at all. As an example, I let someone take over my life for a while, and it was destroying my confidence. I couldn't change him, but I could change how I dealt with the situation, and that was by taking back what he had stolen from me, my control.

It seems to me, and I am surmising here, that the people who have frugality thrust upon them are the ones who find it hardest to cope. They didn't want to lose their job, or have their marriage break up, or become incapacitated, it just happened. It's much more difficult to pick up the pieces and start again. To have enforced lifestyle changes is much harder to come to terms with than choosing to make the changes yourself. If you have had it all, then lose the lot it must be devastating for anyone to deal with.

This blog is to record my take on life, the way I look at it, with optimism and hope. It's about my methods of managing with less. Less of everything, stuff I don't need stuff I don't want. If anyone can pick up a few ideas from it that's fine. I am not saying do as I do because everyone has their own ideas on what works best for them. People should deal with their own situations in the best way they can. Wean, I didn't say, 'quit spending and you will have plenty of money'. If that's what you saw then you read it wrong, or maybe I didn't explain myself very well. The key word here is 'enough'. Quit spending on things you don't need, so you have enough for the things you do need. It's all down to what your priorities are.

I have said this many times over, only buy what you need. Think about every penny you spend, and I say this in general terms it's not aimed at anyone in particular. Say to yourself, do you really need this, before opening your purse. If you apply this strict rule to yourself you will find you will reach a point when your priorities change. What seemed so important to you before will get taken out of the, 'something I need', category and put into the, 'something I want', box. And those 'wants' should be what you are saving up for.

If anyone is really struggling I suggest you run your household incomings and outgoings like a business. Write it all down, every penny which comes into the house, and every penny you spend. Even down to the odd choccy bar or magazine. Don't anyone base their needs and wants on what other people have.

I have been rambling on long enough here. I'm going to take my lunch to sit with Scruff and watch the tele for an hour. Bye bye, catch up with you soon.


  1. I just LOVE your can-do attitude! You just get on and are happy with what you have - not what you "WANT". When I was teaching, one of the teachers was saying that when they "Needed " money they borrowed it from her parents (this was a woman who worked and had a fully employed husband, with2 children). I asked her what constituted "needing" money?She said- a new car, an extension on the house, etc.I told her I thought they were "wants"- needs were life and death- terminal illness (we are in the US-no NHS, unfortunately),etc. She just looked at me with no comprehension in those greedy little eyes...
    My only concern for those of us who are retired is what happens when the rising costs go above the basic needs we have, because you can only cut so much and inflation seems to be rising faster than pension cost of living raises...

  2. I fall into the second camp, after my ex wife decided she would prefer life without me.
    Having being forced into frugality, I now find it quite normal to go shopping late, turn lights off, etc, and find our (new wife) expenses are way down on ewhat they used to be.
    And much happier as well, we want less.

  3. Your income is very small - about $13,500. Your mortgage payment is also very small and you dont have to pay for healthcare other than what the government takes at source(huge consideration here in the u.s.) Your main asset seems to be your house which you own and pay very little for and if push came to shove you could rent out some rooms in it etc.
    What concerns me with folk who live on such small margins and have no savings is that if, for example, Tesco decided to stop selling reduced food or everything else goes screeching up how much closer to the bone can you cut - you have so little control.
    I think that saving during your working life is a must these days as the stress of being in poverty outweighs the stress of working and however resourceful you are life eventually becomes a complete struggle for survival with all the attendant stresses.
    So it seems to me that if housing and healthcare (the two biggest expenses here in the u.s.) are covered you stand a much better chance of leading a half-way decent life.

    1. Why do Americans keep thinking people "don't have to pay for healthcare"? It's paid for by taxes that indirectly/directly are paid by all.

  4. no MQ - home/creature comforts are not a priority for me, I said in previous posts I don't use heating, wear extra layers for warmth, use home made candles for heating, fill a flask with boiling water to last the day, and dozens of other money saving methods that I'm sure all the 'fruglies' out there already know.
    You are right however, when you say my utilities are much higher than yours, mainly due to the fact tht the boiler and other fittings don't work properly and I know I'm paying through the nose.
    I also pay an awful lot in rent, to a private landlord, who won't do any maintenance at all.
    I receive a reduced state pension as I didn't put in the necessary years in order to qualify for the full amount, as I chose to stay at home to bring up my children.
    Your mortgage payments are incredibly small, due I should think to the fact that you have been able to pay off lump sums over the years.
    I don't have any choices in my situation, I can't get anywhere else to live privately , no one will rent to a retired pensioner, and council accommodation is not possible where I live, at my age.
    My rent is just under £700 a month. excluding council tax, this is why I have to try all means possible to bring in little extra income sources here and there, including selling off a lot of my personal possessions.
    Yes, I have more cats, and they are non-negotiable, they are my family.
    I didn't go looking for this situation, it was thrust upon me and I'm doing my best to cope.
    I applaud you for what you do, but you can see we have two very different set-ups.

    1. Wean.
      You say your boiler does not work, your landlord has a legal obligation to get it fixed. Contact Age concern and see if they can help you with getting your landlord to fulfil his legal duties.
      You are paying a high rent and your greedy landlord is getting away with not carrying out what he should be doing, Maintaining your living accommodation to a reasonable standard.


  5. PS - I didn't actually say that 'you' said 'quit spending and you'll have extra money' or words to that effect, I was agreeing with another blogger who had replied to that thread and used those terms.

  6. We fall into the first camp. We've chosen to work less so we can care for our disabled son (as well as spend more time together). We got mostly negatives reactions when we told folk. Everyone else is clinging on to their jobs, praying for overtime, and there was us volunteering to give up a chunk of our income. My inlaws thought we were being very irresponsible and had visions of us sinking into unspeakable poverty. The truth is we are nearly a year on from taking a drop in income and guess what..we actually have money left over! We don't need an overdraft anymore, and our debts are starting to be cleared faster than ever. The reason we feel better off is because we have changed our priorities - family over stuff.

    I met up with some friends a few weeks ago and one of them was complaining about how they are struggling financially. She told me that all she wants from life is a new kitchen...then she will be happy. I felt there was little point in telling her that the new kitchen stops being new in about six months, then its just a kitchen and there will definitely be something else that will make life happy and complete...if only she had more money. She wants her husband to get a new job that will pay can see where its all going to end.

    Then there was a poster on MSE this week who almost had me in tears. A man working two jobs to service huge bills (quite unbelievable what was spent on groceries), and children who needed designer clothes to keep up with the other kids. Poor guy was exhausted from it all. Its hard advising someone who hasn't had the lightbulb moment of need vs want.

    Sorry for hijacking your blog, I really enjoy reading your take on money its so refreshing.

  7. Ilona, you are so right. There are varient degrees of needs over wants. We all need to find what works for each of us, individually.
    Our circumstances might well be very different and that is another reason why we can not all do the same. The principle of finding our most important priorities is what matters the most.
    Your blog is an inspiration but not a blue print for frugal living. We all need to find our own way of making the most of what we have. For some it`s a true struggle and for others it`ll be a bit easier. We manage ok most of the time, even after I had reduced my working hours and income. I would struggle imensely alone, if anything was to happen to DB. Then I would have to go back to full time work dispite a bad elbow and arthritis. Half my life I spent as a home maker, looking after my kids. Been only working since 2006, so have no idea where this will leave me in the future, and what the amount of retirement entitlement might be for me. I`ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it. For now we manage decently enough to be able to save for the occassional holiday. We do not go out to eat very often, DB had given up smoking last year and we do not drink alcohol. So, that`s where we manage to save and that`s our priorities. We live within our means and cook from scratch. I even can afford to save up some Tesco saving stamps to help out a friend and neighbour. In return she looks after my cat when I go on holiday. Both of us support each other with frugal hints and tips to get by, and I often let Julia borrow some baking ingredients when she has run out. Being neighbourly and knowing that we can rely upon each other in need helps us all to manage with enough.
    Finding what`s enough is important. That`s truely helping us all to manage well.

  8. We're more the first camp than the second - I *could* go back to work, push myself to get an amazingly well paid City job and earn enough to pay a childminder *and* bring in a good take-home income, but I seriously doubt that when I come to the end of my life I'm going to look back and think "I wish I'd spent less time with my baby and more time earning money"...

    Our outgoings are higher than yours, but again, we rent. We have a small baby who limits the amount we can cut down on heating and water usage. However, I am hugely mindful of the fact that, as I understand it, your mortgage payments are only so low because you have worked hard and made cutbacks in the past to allow you to pay off as much as possible, leaving your remaining mortgage low. It is with this in mind that we are scrimping to get by on the Husbeast's wage alone, but that includes still paying off the same amount as before on the credit card bill. We should have it cleared soon and that will leave us with some extra money each month, which will then go into a fund for either emergencies, or a deposit on a house (depending on what the housing market does).

  9. I truly believe having a good work-life balance is vital in life. That's why I gave up working those crazy hours with two jobs, which lost me about £250 a month. I am only living at home with my family for a year, then it's off to University again (but this time, with only the standard 20-odd days holiday a year instead of the undergraduate 6 months!!) so one of my priorities is to spend time with them. I barely saw them when I was working 5am-11pm with a couple of hours in the middle for a shower and food!

    I think it is important for everyone to live frugally, very nicely within their means, because if you ARE unfortunate enough to have a dramatic loss of income/illness/family emergency etc., you can already live on a much smaller amount of money, and you will know what else you can cut out if you really have to.

    I would also recommend to anyone to track their spending. It is enlightening!

  10. Brilliant post Ilona! - I work and moan about it as I would love to be at home (and have considered taking the route to the first camp many a time) - but I know that my job and that daily commute means that I can pay my bills (mortgage cleared, now thank God!) and turn the heating on when I want (suffering arthritis, that's important!.
    But more importantly to me it means that I can help my grown up children and young grandchildren - I suffered real hardship when they were growing up due to an idle and inconsiderate ex husband and they went without a lot - so if I can help them now whilst they are strugglying due to this recession, then I'll do whatever I've got to do and will help them wherever I can because that's what's important to me and because they are sensible adults, who are just trying so hard to make their way, and are finding it hard due to no fault of their own (No new kitchens etc., with them just trying to pay their mortgages and keep their jobs)
    We all have different priorities on what we need and have different priorities at different times of our lives, don't we?
    But again Ilona, brilliant post and can I say some really interesting responses, ladies and gents! xx

  11. i really enjoy reading your blog its always so interesting, i was made redundant at 63 when our additional needs playgroup closed but am managing ok me and the five cats thanks to your tips


  12. Brilliant post, my two favourite words in it are "optimism" and "hope". As you write, you fill us with optimism and hope too, enough to believe that by careful living we can enjoy those things and experiences in life that are truly meaningful, rather than being slaves to capitalism, thank you so much.

  13. Needa and wants. I have some good news. Community works, an elderly neighbour needs support to get up in the morning, meals and going to bed. I can do that. Daughter lives in South Africa. [personal care no charge here} but meals call in are. Daughter said mum has always liked you can you help?, yes. so i visit 4 times a day and bring Betty here on a sunday for lunch, kids love her anyway. No cant accept money as single parent, but just got sent 3 school outfits blazers and everything for my 3 from marks and spencers. wow. School also told me outing to France paid for my eldest Doesnt cost much more to cook extra portion of food. No kids are not left home alone Sarah next door 17 looks after them for morning and evening, in exchange she gets sewing lessons making making summer dresses, gets use of conservatory for her and 5 friends on a friday. Smiling

  14. 50 and counting - u.k. national health insurance is paid for at source - you dont have to pay (cash, credit or cheque) when you go to the doctor. It is taken out of your money as tax and you dont see it at all. Also a single payment covers everything from a flu shot to open heart surgery - not like in the u.s. where every treatment/visit has a price.

    1. I'm a Canadian and understand that.

      I also see Americans cross the border looking for "free treatment"

  15. Sadly our American friends do not understand how people like me single parent can get healthcare for whole family. I worked full time paid taxes 2o years before i had children, but we look after each other country pot. No money or not paid or never paid basic right here healthcare like fresh water.

  16. As an American with a son who is a UK resident, I DO KNOW you pay for your health care. We pay for ours (through the NOSE!!) and when the system says your benefits are "ALL USED UP" you then have no more care and must pay for it yourself or do with out. So people bankrupt themselves to pay for the care they need...while you continue to get care. I think the UK system is the way to go. Do I think the US is the "Best country in the world"???NO!!!!

  17. What has always scared me about the American thinking process is "I'm not paying for some other guy's healthcare". The concept of greater good for the community seems to be missing. The concept of universal vs. socialized medicine is also beyond their comprehension.

    I work in the Canadian healthcare system and am fed up of how many Americans travel up here each summer and then get "sick". Last week we had someone come to Emergency to ask if they could get their cataracts treated while here! My friend works close to the border and each month sees a woman deliver in her hospital to try and avoid paying in the US.

    Our government sends bills south but I've never heard if they are paid.

    It just seems very hypocritical to think that their shouldn't be a national healthcare pot in the US but have no hestitation in abusing a nearby nations.

  18. I found you a few days ago and have been skipping backwards reading about your life. Much of it reflects my life and upbringing. My grandmother taught me well, I recycle, upcycle and charity shops are my home ground. I grow my own fruit and veg, make all our pickles, chutneys and preserves. I cook every meal from scratch using what is in season from the garden or what I put in the freezer.We do eat meat but not every day and then I buy cheap cuts or reduced packs. I do this because I learnt it young and because I enjoy it. I still work full time at 62, I can retire late July but I love my job,I am considering cutting down to 3 days a week to spend more time sewing. I am thoroughly enjoying reading you blog, I toyed with the idea of starting one but I have little knowledge of computers and share your views on adverts. Maybe when I go part time at work. I live at the very southern tip of Lincolnshire just before the cross keys swing bridge, I see it open most weeks and it amazes me every time. Pam

  19. sometime people have to move where is cheap housing.
    friends just got a nice little home for $70,ooo .
    It is 250k. from Melbourne (Australia)
    We have Medicare here in Australia.
    They got off the treadmill.

  20. Great post Ilona, really enjoyed reading it.
    I love your optimism and hope. You have worked hard all your life and made choices that have got you to where you are now. I think when you realise you have "enough" that's when you get contentment. Too many people chase the material side of life and wonder why they still feel dissatisfied with their lot. Stuff doesn't make you happy in the long run.


  21. Hi there! This post couldn't be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this information to him. Fairly certain he'll have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

  22. Wonderful post Ilona! I was one of the people who had it all and my wants were a priority. I had debt but I could make minimum payments so didn't think twice. Then I developed two autoimmune disorders in a year, one of which resulted in early onset arthritis in my 20's. I had to give up work and my entire attitude had to change to simply live, I simply had to stop spending because I wasn't well enough to increase my income.

    It took years but I paid off every penny of my debts and learned a new way to live. Now I find there is nothing I do want? It gets to my birthday and I cannot give my partner any items to buy for me, I have all I need. My priority for a want is internet, I have been unable to leave the house for a year so it is my only way to stay in touch with the world. As long as I make sure I have that, food and shelter I have all I need to be happy. In fact I am happier now than when I was working and 'had it all'.


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