Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Spending less is the key to a simple life

When I first made the decision to leave work, my initial plan was to take approximately two to three months to 'recover', then look for another job because I believed that we needed all the money we could. With four children there are expenses - university, school visits, hobbies, allowances and so on. Because we didn't seem to have much spare money even when two wages were coming in, both my husband and I were doubtful that we could manage on one wage.
During September, I read everything I could find about leading a simpler life - blogs, books and magazine articles. Whilst they all had a slightly different take on it, all agreed that the first step to help simplify your life was to spend less and become debt free as soon as possible.
I started to think of ways forward. Of course the first step was to work out how much we were spending and on what, so I religiously tracked our expenditure for the whole month of October. Whilst I was already spending less because I wasn't at work, I was still shocked to see just how often we went to the shop for food items and how much money was 'frittered' on acquiring stuff. From this I concluded that for me NOT to have to work, we would need a fairly radical rethink. The next step was to pay off the mortgage. We had been overpaying every month for some time so had managed to reduce the lump sum quite considerably, but it would mean eating a large chunk of our savings. After some deliberations, we walked into the bank with a cheque for the redemption figure. Very exciting, but sadly no champagne or flowers from the bank to congratulate us on what was a HUGE achievement for us!
So, debt free, I now had to work out how we could save money and still rebuild our savings pot. Next step a budget. Now that I had a more detailed idea of what we needed to spend each month, I was able to set a cash budget for November. I had plastic zip wallets for food shopping and for sundries. My husband had a small cash allowance each week and used his card for petrol.
The aim was to save by spending less on food (having a mostly vegan diet certainly saves money as meat, fish and cheese are pricey), buy less wine, which also had health benefits, cut back on all unnecessary spending and basically be much more aware of what we were buying.
All of this has led to the possibility of me not having to go back to work unless I choose to, a luxury I am very grateful for. We are still able to save money at the end of every month, although the tax man (due to a mis calculation on his part) has sent us a nasty bill this month so we might not manage any savings in January.
Sorry this is a long post, just to stress the importance of spending less and paying off debts if you are aiming to lead a simpler life. If you are still working, you might be able to overpay on the mortgage every month. Even if it's only £50/£100 per month it makes a huge difference to the interest charged and can shorten the length of the mortgage. Once all debts are paid, then save, save, save!
Our next target is for Mr D to be able to reduce his hours with an aim to taking early retirement when possible - it's a very stressful job and the statistics for survival for men if they work through to retirement age is under 6 months!! Not a cheery thought. I'm trying to work out the minimum we need to live off to work out what our options are.
I'd love to hear any ideas and thoughts you have on this. What do you do to make your retirement more financially secure?


  1. Good post, its not about how much you earn, its about spending wisely, I find baking from scratch, making gifts, a bit of ebay have helped us, I look at looking after the home my job.,

  2. Yes indeed, after all our homes are generally our biggest investment! Mind you, no sooner do I think I've done everything, than I find something else that needs doing around the home! I haven't tried eBay, but my sister-in-law is a wizz at it, so I may get her to give me some tips. I received my first free sample today, having looked at the sites you recommended - thanks! Juliette.

  3. Hello, just discovered your blog. You sound in a similar situation to me. I reached the age of 50 at the end of 2014 and decided after much deliberation to take voluntary early retirement from my NHS job as I was able to access my NHS pension. After many years at work and bringing up 3 children my work finally got the better of me and I began to think there must be a simpler life! We juggled our finances and decided to clear our mortgage with my smallish lump sum, leaving just a small amount of savings. We still have household bills like everyone else and help our youngest with some university costs but I am a much happier, relaxed contented person now.

  4. Welcome! It's scary isn't it, how much these jobs can take out of us! I don't think I even noticed really until I stopped! It's a big step and I am still at the 'fingers crossed' stage that it will work, but I am thankful every day that I have been able to recover my health. Our crunch may come if the oldest three all decide to go to uni at the same time (one second degree,mine deferred and one first degree!)!! I'm really glad you have been able to take the same step and recover yourself too!