Sunday, 12 February 2017

Letter to Sam.

Hello. It is still raining and I am not getting much walking done. Never mind, I will catch up eventually, in the meantime I am hooked on painting, pictures that is, not walls. 

An email came in a few days ago which asks a question, and as it is a good topic for a blog post I thought I would answer it here, with the writers permission.  

Hi Ilona,
My name is Sam and I am a young lad from Spain. I just felt the need to write you a "keep up the good work" email, since I have been reading your blog for a while now and find you and your lifestyle truly inspiring. Thanks for showing me that you do not need to conform to a traditional lifestyle and that going against the current is perfectly fine. 

I have only recently started accepting that being very careful with spending is not a bad thing. I was so terrified of coming across as tight. Now I jokingly call myself tight. For me, it's all about trading things for experiences. I want my life to be full of experiences and not just things. Deep down, I have known for years that, for me, being rich is doing meaningful work.

I still have a long road ahead, I struggle every day with family and society's expectations. Not craving people's approval is not something they teach you at school or work. What about you, did you ever struggle with your life choices being frowned upon? Any advice on how to cope with it?

Hi Sam, 
Thanks a lot for your kind words. I am chuffed that my blog is being read by all ages, and is helpful to you. I love this phrase you use, 'going against the current is perfectly fine'. That's exactly how I feel. Although there has been periods in my life where I felt I had to fit in and be one of the crowd, I am now in a better place having broken away from mainstream expectations. It is a liberating feeling knowing I can be myself, and take full responsibility for my own well being and happiness. I no longer need approval from others to make me feel good.  

It is natural for younger people to want to fit in. Being an outcast when you are young is no fun at all, such is the cruel way that people bully each other. It takes a very brave young person who hasn't been around very long to stand up and say, this is me, this is who I am. 

I followed the normal pattern of a young girl with no qualifications leaving school in 1964, and worked in shops, offices, and factories, in female type jobs because that was expected. Now of course things are different, there is no such thing as jobs for women, and jobs for men, or shouldn't be, as discriminating on the grounds of gender is illegal. 

There is so much pressure these days on keeping up appearances. Everywhere you look there are influences to spend more money. Credit cards, overdrafts and loans to encourage you to spend more. People walking around with a £500 phone stuck to the side of their head, kids who have rich parents, cruising the streets in the flashiest car they can find, young people hooked into the celebrity culture, all of which will ultimately be their downfall as they become bored or the debts wrack up. 

A young person who can stand up and say no thanks to all this, should be applauded, not picked on. Ultimately I think it is the parents responsibility to teach their children good money management, but as we know, a lot of parents don't have the skills in the first place. It's not like it was years ago when I was a child, my mum managed on very little money, and I learnt from her. 

I wasn't too happy about the names I have been called in the past by the press, skinflint, tight, miserly, among others. Stingy was particularly hurtful. But now I wear my badge with pride, people can say what they like, I know I am the winner. I have no need to fit in.

You ask, 'Did you ever struggle with your life choices being frowned upon?'  Yes it was a struggle sometimes, but I have never shied away from questioning myself, and my identity. I often search my feelings deep down in my heart and my mind, even now, it never stops. The way to all learning is to first look inside yourself. All through my life I have questioned my identity, if there was something I didn't understand I would look for the answers. First within myself, and also with the help of books, magazines, and now the internet. There are such a lot of resources available. 

Yes, I know I harp on about this, but it can't be ignored. I felt I was struggling against a tidal wave when I started lorry driving in 1976. So much negativity came my way, I felt like giving up many times. But I stuck with it, the more people said I shouldn't be doing it because it was taking the job off a man, the more determined I became to carry on. I seem to have been blessed with an inner strength. After being bullied at school and made to feel ugly and hopeless, then struggling through my teenage years wanting to fit in with the gang, at the age of 27 I finally found something that I was passionate about, and my inner strength was there to help me. 

You ask for my advice on how to cope with your struggles. Sam, life is a journey, the road you choose is up to you. There will be times when you wonder what it's about. What you should never lose sight of is that you have been blessed with a life, it is a gift, and you have a duty to yourself to make it the best you can. There will be outside influences pulling you in one direction or another. Think things through carefully and make your decision, do you turn left, or do you turn right? One is a dead end, the other is the way forward. Don't worry if you are going in the wrong direction, we all lose our way at one time or another, just turn round and take a different route. 

I often talk about taking responsibility for oneself. What I never do is blame anyone else for the the position I find myself in. My life has been planned by me, I take full responsibility. I have the power to change things if they are not right. I have learnt to rise above any negativity that comes my way, sweep it to one side and ignore. Practice is what you need, Sam, things will get easier with age and experience.

I think I have covered everything, I hope it has been useful to you. Live your life Sam, in the way that you want to, not in the way that someone thinks you ought to. Best of luck. 

We'll catch up soon. Enjoy your Sunday if you can, it's still raining here. 
Toodle pip


  1. Brilliant post Ilona, lovely to see a youngster getting on board, my boy is 19 and we are lucky he has learnt so much from us. As you and I know a rich and rewarding life doesn't mean a house full of the latest gadgets and keeping up with the Joneses and earning pots of money, its about make the best of what you have and enjoying the simple things in life.

  2. What a caring and honest reply, Ilona. You speak from the heart and the advice you have given Sam shows that. Catriona

  3. Sam sounds like he has his head screwed on! Good for him. He's lucky that his way of thinking seems to have come to him at an early part of his life - all the best to him.

  4. Great post, both the letter from Sam and your reply. For what it is worth, the people I know now that are the most successful were not part of the "in" crowd in school or teenage years. Either too smart, too plain or too different. I think the struggle of not fitting in easily lends us all steel inside that makes us stronger for life.

  5. I don't comment often, but whilst reading this, I formulated a comment in my mind, only to find that others have beaten me to it.
    I'll say it anyway, this was a great post and reply to read.
    Hazel Dxb

  6. Its only by having blogs like yours, newspaper articles, etc that its out there and talked about, its great that the younger generation are taking it on board. my partner even said yesterday I took your advice and found vouchers off money for the clothes I was buying online, which I thought was great as we had talked about it about 6 months previous. keep on the good work of making it more acceptable to be more frugal.

  7. Such an informative and instructive post to Sam, Ilona. I'm sure all who read your blog will wish him well. Susan (wife of Edward)

  8. I am surprised you are not flooded with comments...Seems such a timely and sensible lad (Sam) and post.

    Sam, good going...Put your money savings into something solid/secure. I have often heard that land is good investment, as worst comes to worst, one can live on it/grow food/raise chickens, all quite cheap. Also, eventually land will increase in value...there is only so much it is a limited resource. Just keep your eye out for a good/great deal, and educate yourself on this and other ways to invest savings.

    Re others attitudes..well.. it is common, many folks are nasty and mean and picky if someone is not "just like them"...It is not new, and not likely to change. Not much to be done about them, except "thank them" if they make a comment direct to you, and tell them something polite like "you'll give that some thought" (I like to allow for the possible that they may be genuine in their effort to educate and not just nosey or nasty)...and get on with what you feel/know is important to you. You will feel more satisfaction/accomplishment/joy in the long run, if you can feel you have been true to what is important to you.

    Keep an eye out for like minded folks local to you, it would be nice for you to have some folks to share your accomplishments with, and also, if you develop a "group", others will not be so quick to criticise/harp/harass. Humans are a curious lot, and if they suddenly realise it is not just you with these ideas, they will start to wonder what you know that they do not.

    We have always been somewhat frugal, and for various reasons find need to be more so.
    So, more shopping second hand etc...What we have noticed, is there are a LOT of folks who also shop second hand, and it is much more common than it used to be.

    A handy response (if you feel you need one) if someone questions/derides you for shopping second hand..
    "Oh, I am a firm believer in recycling. It is my bit to help the environment" etc..

    And, you might want to keep in mind to have one or two things you keep in your heart to treat yourself with/save for...a trip/a piece of land/a special outing. It is nice and gives you something to save for.

    1. I'm not sure that a piece of land would be in this lad's budget!

    2. I think Sam will have his own agenda, he seems a sensible lad.

  9. great post Ilona...loved hearing from Sam and knowing some of the younger generation has some common coworkers are mostly the time who spend and whine about being broke/in debt...I think being frugal is fun when you have the right mindset...and you have taught us a lot about that...hugs from across the sea...

  10. All my best to Sam. I feel confident he is going to be just fine by surrounding himself with like-minded individuals no matter age, online, etc. You covered everything in your response to him Ilona and I applaud your answer. I started following your blog as a result of a trip to the UK; I continue to follow because of posts like this. Jackie

  11. Wonderful post Sam and a brilliant, sensible reply Ilona.
    BTW my open heart surgery has gone well and after a fortnight in hospital I am back home recovering well and looking forward to the future, even at 78 I hope the next few years will be as rewarding as all the previous ones.
    Thanks again Sam and Ilons.

  12. A great post and reply from you. Everybody has said everything I could want to say, but more eloquently, so well done to all your readers who commented :)

  13. great comment. I love that you say if you are going the wrong way. don't worry and search another path. how true that is. don't forget that this is the way we learn, grow and develop. I love your blog Ilona

  14. I only have a few things to add to Ilona's reply, some already said:
    Realise you only spend money ONCE: food, mortgage, rent etc but think 'do I need to spend it' (of course to survive you do, but the 'luxuries', do you REALLY require them).
    Always find a way of earning money: a career/trade etc, take a course or qualification so that you have something to offer in the workplace and are able to support yourself (hopefully something you enjoy but don't be picky or you can't pay the bills).
    Be yourself: don't worry about 'fitting in', do what interests you to cultivate your social circle and be happy (be it hang-gliding; pottery; whatever, learn about and enjoy).
    And, my mantra 'only look down on somebody when you are helping them up' i.e. don't be a horrid snob and judge anyone by their lifestyle or circumstances, and remember we all get wiser with age, they're bumps in the road but that's how we learn. Amanda

  15. Well said Ilona..I really enjoyed your post

  16. Lovely man. He doesn't say how old he is, but my daughter is nearly 18 and she is has become very content with not fitting in. She has a few friends that just accept her as she is and she has learned to chose her friends wisely. She shops in charity shops, she only shops ethically, she is a vegetarian, doesn't watch TV and only listens to music from the 80's! She is very good with her money and tends to boast about her £1 jeans or cutting her own hair. The key is to be confident! Those that matter won't care. Better to have a few good friends than a crowd of people who are only interested in you because you fit in. Those types tend to be rather boring anyway. Good luck.

  17. You are going to do really well Sam. Keep at it. Just the fact that you are seeking advice in how you'd like to live your life from those who have gone before speaks that you have a good head on your shoulders. Well said Ilona. Your wisdom and honesty and sound advice is refreshingly heard by this reader. Thank you both.

  18. Very wise words Ilona, and what a wise young man Sam is. Your advice is inspiring to all ages. Your blogs enrich the lives of so many people, including me, on a daily basis. I am older than you but you are wiser than me, but I'm learning. Keep up the good work.

  19. Hello...

    wondering if we could hear from Sam, in the comments here,
    what do you think of the replies/Iiona's post?


  20. I also love your blog. Spent the 44 degree Celsius day yesterday catching up on what you did in 2011 ! Ha!
    Krystal in Australia

    1. Crikey Krystal, you're keen. I've forgotten what I did last week, that's why I write it all down, ha ha.

  21. Hi Ilona, thanks for a very interesting post, and well done to Sam. He doesn't say how old he is but he seems to talk about work as well as school. My husband and I have always been of the mind if we can't afford it we don't have it and we don't owe anyone anything, having been mortgage free for some years now, through sheer hard work, frugality and being sensible. We have passed this ethos on to our two sons. They are 28 and 26, both hard working, don't have any debts or credit cards. Again if they want something they work hard and save for it. At one time one of our sons had three jobs, so he could pay his student loan off quickly. I remember when he was at university sharing a house with 4 other lads, (we have always made packed lunches wherever we go and this has rubbed off to our sons) one of his housemates who was doing the same course as him and had just gone out to a cafĂ© and spent £8 on a drink and a roll, made fun of our son's packed lunch from home which had cost no more than £1.50, and our son calmly turning round and saying that he could make his lunches for the whole week on what his friend had just spent on one day's lunch. It didn't take long for his friend to start making packed lunch. I think your way of living is amazing and it must be gratifying to you to know that young people read your blog and applaud what you do. Regards Sue H.

    1. That's a good story, Susan. Well done you for bringing your lads up right.

  22. As a fairly recent 'frugal-ite', I love your blog - always encouraging and never feeling sorry for yourself. I admire those qualities - after 50 years on this planet, I can say that I am a late convert to this cautious lifestyle, but I am happier for having made the choice to go down this path! As I volunteer in a charity shop I love to see the customers go away happy with their 'recycled' purchases - often lovely clothes at bargain prices. I am grateful to those who do generously donate and who can afford to do so; there is room for us all in this world!


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