Monday, 24 March 2014

Are you going the right way?

Hello. If anyone wants to ask me anything I will try and answer, I'm not saying I know everything, I don't, but if I can draw on my life experiences and share some of the knowledge, I will try and help.
Gam Kau posed a question yesterday.

I love your frugal ways and your lifestyle. Healthy, wealthy (in the way that counts!) and wise. We can all learn from you. I was wondering, did you ever go through a point in your life where you weren't so frugal? It seemed to take me until middle age to pull myself together and be properly frugal.

Years ago, if you had mentioned the word frugal, I wouldn't have known what it meant. I suppose I was frugal though, but didn't know it at the time. I was taught to save up for the things I wanted, and plan my spending carefully. My mum was my teacher, she managed to keep the family clothed and fed with a roof over our heads, on very little money. We never had pocket money, there wasn't any spare to give us. We had treats now and again, like a shilling to go and buy sweeties at the corner shop. Sometimes only sixpence, we could afford four blackjacks or fruit salads for one penny, or a big gob stopper. We learnt from an early age to chose the best we could for the money we had. We saved our birthday and Christmas money to buy something bigger.

When I left school I got a job in a shop. I wanted to buy a trouser suit from a rather posh ladies clothes shop, but didn't have enough. Mum allowed me to put a deposit down and pay weekly out of my wages, she signed as guarantor. I had a little payment book, and every Friday, I went in the shop and paid the installment, before I bought anything else. Then I went home and paid my mum her board and lodgings money. I contributed to the household income as soon as I had my first wage packet.

I left home at 18 and got a bedsit in Blackpool, now there was no mum to fall back on if I ran out of money, it was down to me to budget properly. I had a job, my rent took up a large chunk of my wages, then I had to be careful with what was left, to buy food, a bit of money for going out, and the electricity meter. I remember walking almost everywhere then.

A few years later I went back to live at home for a while, then I got a rented flat, preferring my own space. All the jobs I did at that time weren't particularly well paid, I worked in shops, offices, and factories. When I got to 27 I found lorry driving, and my wages then increased enough to be able to buy a house. I was paid the same as the men from the start. It wasn't fantastic, I was never going to get rich from driving, but I reckoned that doing something I loved was a far better prospect than being stuck in a job I hated. The money almost didn't matter to me, as long as I had enough. And to make sure I did have enough meant not spending more than I earned.

I was skint when I got my first house, lived in chaos for a while until I saved up to pay for renovations. Slowly things began to get a bit easier, then I sold and plunged all my money into a bigger house. Then I was skint again, but able to keep up with paying for everything. The only time I borrowed was from an ex boyfriend who lent me £3,000 to replace windows and a door which were falling apart. He didn't want any interest, and I drip fed the payments back into his bank account. All was paid back in a year.

Apart from a mortgage, I have never taken out a loan from a bank or a lender, and never bought a car on finance. I just couldn't do it. That would be spending someone else's money and I wasn't entitled to it. What I did do once was to remortgage so that I could afford to change my dilapidated clapped out old van to a half decent second hand car. I needed to be able to get to work. I already owned more than half my house, so I reckoned that the money was mine to use for a car, so I could earn money to keep up the repayments. As I previously mentioned I never missed one mortgage payment. Paying for a roof over my head was priority.

I have juggled credit cards in the past, to take advantage of 0% interest, but that was mainly to help the cash flow for my business. Buying stock with plastic, selling it, and paying off the bill when it came through the door.

I must admit that long term saving was never on my agenda. I try to keep a small buffer for emergencies, that's all I need. I have no desire to amass great wealth, money was never a motivator in my life. There are far more important things.

That's the wealth side of your question answered I think. What about health? I was skinny when I was a teenager, and through most of my twenties, then I put on weight when I became a lorry driver, through unhealthy eating. No time to sit down for a proper meal, always snacking, goodness knows what I put my body through. At least I didn't get a beer and fried breakfast belly like some of the men, I gradually crept up to almost eleven stone. Mind you with the physical hard graft I was doing, an extra few pounds didn't matter. Some of it was muscle and I needed pretty strong biceps and shoulders to assist with all the lifting I was doing. My last driving job was pretty easy going, mostly driving, so I didn't need to be strong any more. I started to look after myself, cut right down on the snacking, always took my own pack ups. The weight dropped down to a more acceptable level, and now I am back to 8 and a half stone.

So, I'm not sure if I have answered your question, 'Did I ever go through a point in my life when I wasn't so frugal?' I suppose the answer is no. I can't say I went off the rails, went on a spending spree running up debt, spending money I didn't have. It never happened. I am the only one responsible for how I live my life, it was always up to me to earn enough money to pay for what I need. My mathematics are simple, the money coming in on the one side, has to be more than the money going out on the other side. That's what I was taught, and that's what I have lived by. I haven't been swayed by seeing other people with more than me, and I don't feel one bit envious of those who have far more than I have. I am sorry if that makes me sound smug and self righteous, I don't mean it to be.

Hope that has helped. I think as long as you stick to the simple rule of not spending more than you earn, you can't go wrong. Paying interest on a load of debt is chucking money away. I have paid a lot of interest on my mortgage, but that is better than paying a load of rent which I won't see one penny of again. You mention pulling yourself together, Gam Kau. That is up to you. Don't beat yourself up if you don't quite manage to get things right. You fall down and you keep getting back up, and you try again. I made some daft decisions when I was younger, everyone does. As long as you admit to yourself you are on the wrong track you think oh chuffin hell, I shouldn't have done that, and you change direction and get yourself on the right track.

Good luck to everyone with finding the right way for you. There will be a few dead ends, but eventually you will get there. Thanks for reading. Toodle pip.  


  1. Hi Ilona, I don't usually comment, but today I needed to hear what you told Gam Kau at the end. Lovely post and thank you for sharing. Lynne (AK, USA)

  2. I have read this advice and story from you more than once, but I never get tired of it. It is a wonderful lesson that I cannot hear too many times. It reminds me of how it works. It reminds me how you get a good night's sleep not worrying about bills coming in you can't pay. It reminds me how to enjoy life taking out what doesn't matter and putting in what does. I don't eat as frugally as you do, but then I don't like to travel, so it all evens out in the end. I also grew up in a frugal household so I never got into a financial hole. And I love the advice to just keep getting back on the wagon! Blessings to you Ilona.

  3. Oh, thank you so much Ilona! I hope I wasn't being too intrusive by asking the question, I didn't mean to be. It seems I often am very hard on myself for foolishness in my 20s and 30s. I've never gotten myself in debt, but I do remember caring very much about looking the right way and owning the right things and now I look back and cringe. I'm much smarter now (if I do say so myself) and have learned, but I am always terribly impressed by people like you who are so hard working and seem to have your values aligned just right. You really are so very inspiring. Thanks again, and thanks for keeping your blog because I think it helps a great many people. :)

  4. Hi Ilona, I really enjoyed reading this response and I think that most of us learn valuable lessons from our parents. My parents weren't wealthy and they had some very hard times when I was young. I remember my mother being stressed about it sometimes and how she stretched the money. We always had a roof over our heads, food on the table and decent, clean clothes to wear but didn't have any fancy vacations or other luxuries (not even a car!). We lived in the city so everything was accessible by bus or walking. I didn't feel poor at all. Ever. I still don't. I have a house that's paid for and everything that I need. I know some people have gone the opposite way from how their parents lived. I know someone who grew up quite poor and as soon as she got a job, she spent every last penny on clothes, makeup, shoes, etc. etc. I think she was living out her dream of having all these things after years of having nothing. After awhile, she calmed down a bit and wasn't so foolish. Your blog is always very thought provoking and I love to read it every day.

    1. KG - can you send me a message? Can't contact you directly because I lost your details...

  5. I would like to echo the thoughts of other readers and thank you for keeping us on track and reinforcing the message.
    We all need a bit of a reminder and encouragement and that, you do well Ilona.
    Thank you.
    Pam in TX

  6. You are fortunate being born to gr8 parents & values, Iiona!

    Gr8 post, thank-you!


  7. I wish you were my big sister, you would have been a great role model. Thanks for being one now.

  8. Another great post .. I have emailed you Ilona :) AFM xx

  9. Thank you for your awesome and inspirational blog and the wonderful advice you share so generously.

    AussieCheryl : )

  10. Good post Ilona, and you are not smug at all. I like your straight forward, common sense attitude

  11. Thanks so much for sharing more of your story. You are an inspiration to me. I am now debt free but have been in a mess financially for most of my adulthood. I had brilliantly frugal role models in my parents, but the circumstances i found myself led to my taking up credit cards just to feed us at some points. Sounds unbelievable, but then, i don't really want to elaborate about how bad the situations were that i found myself in, especially when i became a single parent with no where to live.

    Thankfully, all these years later, i am now crazy frugal and instead of spending, love keeping that money in my purse as long as possible and i vow that in so far as it is within my ability, i will NEVER get myself into the debt trap again.

  12. Many thanks - lovely post - still enjoying all your posts - jac.xx

  13. Love your advice, Ilona. And you are so right. No matter the path you take, spending has to be less than what you earn. Thinking you are entitled to things and getting into debt will only cause unhappiness.

    Thanks for sharing such great words of wisdom and commonsense.

  14. Hi Ilona,
    it was great to hear your story - thankyou :)


  15. Thank you - loved this post. Your mum gave you something very valuable there. Both me and my husband were raised on very little and although in the past we have spent money unwisely, when the chips were down we have both been very competent at rolling up our sleeves and going back to basics, without feeling hard done to, because it was in our nature. I noticed my teenage daughter is very careful with money, she's a saver and does not part with it easily. She only buys what she needs and rarely asks for anything. I guess without even realising it we have taught her well. Debbie

  16. I remember 4 black jacks or fruit salad for 1p! Seems a long time ago,well I guess it is.
    Like you I've never envied those with more than me. I'm more than happy living a very simple life.

  17. I also remember black jacks and fruit salad. Also ha'penny spanishes and a dab of sherbert.

    I was a bit confused about you and credit cards, after all if you're buying something with a credit card you're spending money that isn't yours. No different from a loan really. We were brought up to only buy something if we actually had the money for it already, saving up for something was hard to do but that's what we did. To this day I've never had a credit card.

  18. You need to have your fun while you're young because its only a matter of time before resposibilities come along but whatever the circumstances you need to make sure that you can make the money go around.
    Credit cards are ok as long as you pay them off without paying interest, and for some purchases its better to use plastic because the goods are insured.


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