Welcome to the August edition of our Frugal Challenge.
It has struck me recently how much saving money is like losing weight. There are many ways to do both yet really all either require is a modicum of self-control, and the willingness to change one habit at a time. So why is it so many fail at both? I look over the past year of trying to pay off our mortgage and I can see that we set ourselves up for failure in a way. And over the years it has been much the same with me attempting to lose weight.
One Step at a Time
When we climb a mountain it is by placing one foot in front of the other. And continuing to do so until the top of the mountain is reached. It is these multitude of small steps which allow the great achievement at the end. It is the plodding through each monotonous step, one hour at a time. This is where I think we went wrong. Gary and I tend to start a project and throw ourselves into it. In this case throwing all our money at the mortgage, without once figuring that we needed a safety net for those little emergencies life has for us. Had we maybe sought to change one small thing at a time, without changing everything at once, we may have had more success.
Losing weight is the same. One throws oneself wholeheartedly into a new diet or fad way of eating and then find we run out of steam. Again, if only one habit at a time was changed maybe eventual success would be achieved. It seems to me, it is not the speed with which the journey begins but the constancy of the walk. Really, we just need to keep carrying on. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. Changing one habit at a time. Slowly, slowly. But without stopping. And without giving up.
My Wibbly Wobbly Journey
I post weekly about my journey in losing weight the wibbly, wobbly way. This does not refer to the fact that I look like a jelly. Oh no. It is more a reflection of a maturation in my understanding of success. That there will be wobbles and perhaps even wibbles in my journey. Sometimes I may lose weight, other times I may gain weight. The important thing here is not the weekly amount shown on my scale but the slow advancement towards better health by changing one thing at a time.
I will achieve my goal this time. I know this, not because I have more will power than before. I know this because I am changing one thing at a time, slowly; losing the weight, slowly; taking just one step further each week towards the finishing line of better health. This time, I will keep on keeping on regardless of the wibbles and wobbles of my journey.
Changing One Habit at a Time
How does this relate to our frugal challenge? A year ago I was not so wise. I am not sure if it is because I am sleeping more in one night than I was in one week, but there seems to be a clarity in my thinking which has been absent for the last forty years (!). I have always been all or nothing. Until I slept. Bizarrely sleep has given me a hugely different perspective on my life. Gone is the all or nothing gal. In her place is Plodder Claire. I intend to succeed at this goal of mine, to pay off our mortgage early, one step at a time. Changing one habit at a time; changing one perspective at a time and ultimately saving one pound at a time.
And here are the changes being made this month:
Increase savings and giving
Last month I alluded to the fact that I wanted to increase our savings to 15% of our income. We were at 7%. This is our change this month. We are increasing it to 15%. To be honest we can only do this because of Gary’s pay increase. We will also be increasing our giving in line with his bigger salary. Our giving remains stable at around 10%.
Buying in bulk
Last month we were dipping our toes into bulk buying. To some extent this has been successful. We have bought oats and wheat berries bulk for a couple of years now. As of last month we now have a bulk order for chicken feed and are trying out bulk buy potatoes. The main issue with bulk buying for us is where to store the goods. We are already bursting at the seams at chez moi and so need to choose what we are able to store easily. This means not everything will be bought bulk. However, we have seen our potato bill go down from £10 per week to £10 for three weeks so far (and we still have half a sack left!). Hen food we bought at £5 per week due to laziness (the farm which sells bulk is quite a drive away) But we then found out our local pet shop sells heavily discounted bulk chicken feed. We got our first load a couple of weeks ago, so it remains to be seen how much better it will work out but I am expecting huge savings. This month we will adding dog food, rabbit food, hay, straw and sawdust to that order
A Squirrel Account
A friend directed me to Mortgage Free in Three. This is a frugalistic blog written by a single mum of two. I have enjoyed spending half an hour each night perusing through old posts and came across a post on the squirrel account. I had to laugh. A squirrel account is a place you bury money, squirreling it away for a later date. This account needs to be set up away from your on-line accounts. Somewhere it takes a bit of effort to take money out of, or at least more effort than is required by pressing the transfer button when you are dealing with your online accounts. For us it will be a post office account. I know from experience money stays put if I can’t have immediate access to it. I like the idea of a direct debit going out each month squirreling away money for the future which, to all intents and purposes, I will probably forget about. So this month I intend to set up a squirrel account down the post office and start my squirreling away. Cool hey?
Keep on Learning
I love to learn new things and in particular love to learn new things which might benefit my family. The older three children have asked to learn about finances next year as one of their electives. I’m currently reading
Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money. We have all sorts of plans to teach the five children about money practically and this book is really helping solidify the skills and attitudes I want them to learn.
Big things are happening no longer. They have been replaced by small, doable habits. We will keep our eye on the goal, but not so much that we stumble and forget to enjoy the journey.