Are we saving enough for retirement?

Pension-saving

Hello Dear Reader,

Whilst we’re in the middle of our month long fiscal fast we take the time to re-evaluate our long term finances. As retirement in the UK is at 67 year, then our desires to retire at 60 are effectively hoping to take early retirement. We know we’ll have to revisit those desires nearer the time but our aim is to be financially able to put our feet up sooner than most working people. In the meantime, we carry on as if we might have to work until we’re 67 so we’re not disappointed if we can’t.

Currently, we have made the decision to live on a lot less so we are used to having to do with less money. I’m sure it must be a real shock if people lose their job, get made redundant or retire on a small income if they are not used to budgeting at best or in some cases being frugal to make a small income go a long way. We’ve lived this way since 2009 and always take the cheapest low cost route to what ever we hope to achieve so we can put aside as much as we can into savings and investments. We don’t take the ‘we’ve worked for it, so we deserve it’ attitude and keep reminding ourselves that we can have the money now or when we’ve retired but we can’t have both. Whilst we’re young and fit we can chop wood, dismantle pallets, make the physical time and effort to buy second hand or get what we need for free. We may not have the health for that in our seventies so are making the most of the masses of energy we have now.

So, we live with free TV (no Sky package), get the cheapest energy tariffs, reduce our water and energy consumption, only buy what we really need and then supplement that we freecycle, charity shops and gumtree. We mend everything and always shop in the cheapest supermarkets. Every month, we manage to over pay the mortgage, even if it’s only by £75 off the capital and aim most months to over pay another £100. We aim to pay off our mortgage as soon as we can so we can then direct the money we would have previously put into our mortgage into further topping up our pensions. We also add a proportion of our salaries into savings every month and budget judiciously for every penny we spend.

Pensions always look good at the time but as they are a fixed income well into the future, we know however much we’ll have put aside, it’s probably not going to be enough and we’ll have to spend the rest of our lives economising, making do and being as thrifty as possible. So, there’s no use us getting used to wall to wall central heating, deep hot baths and frequent new clothes as we’ll not be able to afford them when we’re retired.

Also, like a lot of people, we didn’t start paying into pensions early enough. Just the same as a lot of people, we didn’t have decent well paid jobs and there were no pensions attached to our jobs that we could pay in to. Now, all employers have to provide a pension service and everyone should pay in although we all know the reality isn’t that great for everyone. If I was going to give advice it would be, if you have spare money that you would choose to spend on a holiday or new car, then it might be better off going into a pension unless you can afford both a ‘treat based’ life style and a pension. It’s probably likely that most people need to make some tough financial decisions that they may not like if they don’t want to live hand to mouth as a pensioner.

If you can, start early at least earlier that I did at 38! The sooner you start then the sooner you can retire as you’ll have a private pension that you’ll have saved into. I’m not counting how long I have until I retire as I don’t want to wish away my days so I’ll take each one as it comes and just keep saving.

In case you’ve arrived here today for the first time, we are not all dull. We lost a very close relative and took some money we inherited (£25K) and bought a second home with it. We didn’t just put the lot into our mortgage as we wanted a life as well as saving. We also spend £1600 a year on ferries and as little as we can on renovating our second home in our holidays. We’ll then rent out our UK property when we retire and add that income towards our pensions. Frugal I can do, penury I can’t.

On balance, we have a bit of fun, spend a bit of money on ten weeks of holidays a year and balance that out with saving the rest and doing what we do as that ideal of retiring at 60 is still a real dream for us. It’s not all dull, I think we’d curl up with boredom if we saved every possible penny every single month and have trips away to look forward to. I know we’re lucky that we can make these decisions but we could choose to live it up every month, have new clothes every month, live in a bigger house, have the central heating on when ever and eat steak at the weekend but we choose to save for the long term instead of spending in the immediate.

Now over to you, share your retirement stories, your retirement plans. Is anyone living really frugally now in necessary preparation so you can afford to retire at all? We all work so hard in this busy modern world, we’ll all need a break sooner or later and there’s a tiny minority who don’t have to make financial sacrifices to afford that.

I always look forward to hearing from you.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

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We’ve come a long way together

Hello Dear Reader,

In 2015, we came to Brittany for a late summer break and to look for a house. Our search criteria was simple- on mains drainage, structurally sound and it had to be cheap! We found our house that hadn’t been lived in since the 1980s and no one had even visited since 1998. We wanted not only a holiday home but somewhere we could retire to in ten years time. We also wanted to be able to share it with friends and some have already made the most of it whilst we’re not there. It took a lot of scrubbing, elbow grease, drying out, warming up and plenty of paint but we now have a habitable home from home.

If you know my blog, you’ll know we’ve been on quite a journey to get here and we know we’ve got quite a way to go. We’ve made some brilliant friends here and two in particular who have shared their skills and expertise to advise us with renovations. They know who they are and how much we think of them. I can not even begin to thank them for their kindness.

These are not my flowers but I couldn’t resist taking a photo of them. We’ve done plenty of relaxing, coffee drinking, chatting, garden snoozing, walking and reading. There’s been a good balance of hard work and good fun. Dear flower owners, we’ll see you at Christmas xxcc

We love Huelgoat forest and get into it for frequent walks and had the chance to share it with visiting friends from Cornwall and share our little town. I bang on about the place but it really is a special place to us.

Like the flowers, the harp isn’t mine either! I think the musician had gone for lunch.

As we have people staying in the house in the cooler months, we had logs delivered to keep them warm and now have a great local contact and supplier of split, seasoned and very dry wood. We’re also grateful to the local support we’ve received in finding our way to local services and suppliers. Contacts are really useful in a local community where you find what and who you need by word of mouth. Whenever I’ve asked neighbours about trees, wood, chimneys or stones, they’ve popped inside and come back with a name and number jotted on the back of an old shopping list. 

DB has been amazing and is a one man marvel and keeps learning new skills and is building a lovely home for us and visitors. He builds and I paint and tend the garden. He studies, researches and reads and then builds when he’s not a builder. I’m still in awe.

Almost every evening, we walked around the lake and had some wonderful sunsets. We meander back through the square and up the hill. That hill! It must be doing me good…..mustn’t it?

We also had the joy of discovering some great cycling routes and we’ll bring our bikes over at Christmas. I can just imagine being wrapped up warm and riding along the tow path with frosty grass. I should work for the tourist board but you really should visit Brittany if you like cycling as there are hundreds of miles of trails where you’ll never see a car.


Today, we’ve scrubbed and packed the house away until we come back for Christmas. We’ll be back in Cornwall tomorrow night and it’ll be great to catch up with family again.

We still pinch ourselves that we’ve come this far and we have such a fabulous life. Thinking back to 2009 and the predicament we had to dig ourselves out of, we’ll definitely raise a glass to where we are now. 

Until we’re back at Thrift Cottage,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Do you spring clean?

springcleaningchecklist

Hello Dear Reader,

We don’t have much spring left here! Spring is short lived here and before we know, it’ll be summer then we really won’t be home much or feel like emptying the pan cupboard when it gets warms. Spring cleaning is important to me as I get to give the house a good sort out and get rid of anything that’s clogging up my life. I live in a two up, two down and there’s no room to swing a small kitten so clutter just does not feature! Last weekend, I really got the bit between my teeth and my head feels so much better. I organised and deep cleaned my sewing room, which also doubles up as my office and as I spend a lot of time in there working, it’s a much better place in which to think and create now it’s fresh as well as very organised and tidy. It’s a great way to stock take and realise I have plenty of everything and I then know where everything is.

I love a to do list and love that feeling of ticking each job off one by one. I have a long weekend at the end of the week and I’d like to get at least two of these jobs down. I also like a realistic goal, there’s no point in thinking I will do it all as I just won’t. If I get more than two jobs done, then that’s a bonus.

I don’t know what you need to do but here’s my to do list.

Empty out wardrobe and drawers, check if I still fit any of the clothes and send the rest to the charity shop.

Take out summer clothes from the drawers under my bed and fill the drawers with winter jumpers.

Empty out and clean the airing cupboard, refold or iron any bedding. Take surplus to the charity shop.

Empty out the kitchen cupboards, one by one, wash down all the shelves and replace items, washing any with dust.

Empty out and clean out the dining room cupboards and paint the insides.

Wash and repaint skirting boards down stairs.

Paint the hall way – it makes it look cleaner and brighter with a coat of paint.

That’s just for starters!

I better get on with it, May is around the corner and it’ll be summer before we know it.

Over to you, who else has a good sort out and clean at a certain time of year?

Until tomorrow,

 

The end of one journey and the beginning of another!


Hello Dear Reader,

This will be my last blog post until Saturday. I won’t have either the time or the connectivity until them. I will ‘reveal’ my new beginning on Saturday.

Some of you will know my story, others will be reading this for the first time.

In 2009, I decided that I’d had enough of debt, enough of a huge mortgage, enough of car payments and paying off my credit card. I decided to change my life and aim for simplicity. 

Living a simple life is all about making it myself or doing without. I’ve learnt very easily to do both and I shall continue to do so. I stripped everything out of my life that I didn’t need and certainly didn’t need to pay for. I’ve continued to do that to this date.

It took us two years of complete cold turkey to pay off all our debts and then we had to tackle our mortgage. We were tied into a fixed rate deal with £10K handcuffs that we couldn’t walk away from. Nonetheless, we still overpaid an extra 10% a year and as soon as that deal was over, we paid off some more! It meant that without any debt we could dream of living without a mortgage.

In truth, we would never pay off the hulking great mortgage hanging around our necks and needed to get rid of our current home. We tried and succeeded to sell our home in 2009 to have the underwriters pull the mortgage at the last moment. So, we stayed and paid! In 2013, a long time after the fixed rate deal was over and after a lot of over payment, we sold and are moving on.

We leave this house in a couple of days and move to our new modest home which we can afford to pay for in five years! As of Friday, we are five years from being mortgage free.

The past fourteen days of surveys and concrete screening and getting the bank and solicitors to do what they are supposed to do have been stressful and we finally exchanged contracts today.

I’ll be back on Saturday with photos of our new home and you will be able to see it in its ‘before’ state before we get it ‘the way we like it’. You’ll be able to share gardening, Christmas preparation, curtain making, home making and housekeeping with me in my own inimitable thrifty style. 

If anyone is interested, you can catch me Frugal Queen, on Facebook for the next few days.

Until Saturday,

Love Froogs xxxx

Nearly, nearly there!




Hello Dear Reader,

It’s been an emotional week. The house sale almost fell through and then was resurrected with a little persuasion by all parties. Mundic raised its ugly head!

Here’s what wikipedia says about mundic:

“Mundic block problem

The Cornish word mundic is now used to describe a cause of deterioration in concrete due to the decomposition of mineral constituents within the aggregate. A typical source of such aggregates is metalliferous mine waste. Current professional guidance notes describe all of Cornwall and an area within 15 km of Tavistock as being areas where routine testing for mundic is required. The notes go on to state that testing should be confined to buildings which contain concrete elements (blocks or insitu) and that were built in or prior to 1950. However, the notes contain advice that testing may be required where there are visual or other signs of mundic decay. Testing leads to a classification of A, A/B, B and C. A is sound, A/B is sound (but may require re-inspection at a later date) and C is unsound. Classifications B & C mean that a property may be un-mortgagable.[4]
Typically a house is routinely screened if constructed between 1900 and 1950 from concrete block.”

The house was originally smaller and didn’t have a bathroom. The kitchen and bathroom extension was added in the 1950’s and the mortgage company wanted a concrete screening report completed before they would take the mortgage application any further. Lots of houses in Cornwall are not of mortgageable quality, even though they’ve stood for almost 100 years without falling down! If you are a cash buyer and want a cheap house, buy one with a bit of it (no one would advise all of it) built with mundic blocks. However, the house has been surveyed by an expert and there is no mundic in any of the blocks in the extension! Hoo-flippin’-ray!

So, this week has been a difficult one as we’ve waited for seven days for the slowest laboratory in the world to test the drilled samples and tell us what we already knew. How did we know the tenement didn’t have mundic? The man next door is the son of the man who built it! Hey, it’s Cornwall, everyone knows who built everything and is usually related in someway to most of the people in the town they live in!

We will be in by the end of the month and a whole new life will begin! 

Over to you Dear Reader, I hope you share the journey with me. I will still live under my means as I aim to pay off the mortgage (I’m borrowing about half the value of the house) in as short as time as possible. I’m aiming to have a wood shed, wood heating, a vegetable patch and have more time to get out and about and enjoy the county I love so much.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxxxxxxx

Downsizing



Hello Dear Reader,

We have to be ruthless and get rid of most of what we own. Moving from a four bedroom detached 1960’s family home to a cottage built in 1880 (ish) means we can not be sentimental and take anything that we truely don’t need. Some of you will own bathrooms bigger than the reception rooms of my future cottage and I don’t want my new home to be cluttered.

We went through every book and decided to give most of them to charity.

We thought of ebaying furniture and remembered when we had nothing that it was the generosity of others that got us through. Consequently, we are giving away a lot of furniture through Freecycle.

Any household items that a charity shop will take is going to a charity.

We are selling some items such as electricals on ebay as charity shops won’t take them.

We are giving away some garden equipment as we will have a tiny garden where we are going.

We won’t have a garage or outside storage so most of what is in the summer house and garage has to go. In fact, most of it has gone.

It feels liberating to give so much away and having less feels so less restrictive.

Please bear with me as I’m packing and getting my addled head around the move. It may not be for weeks but I like to plan with military precision so I’m getting on with it now. It’s also easier to touch up paint work in empty rooms and scrub and clean the place for the new owners. It will also make cleaning the carpets easier too. 

Tomorrow, I have an exciting competition for you all to take part in so come back for another give away. 

Over to you. Now is the time for you to share any de-cluttering, downsizing and house moving advice. Who else has been through this recently? Is it just me or is this experience really cathartic?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Look what I have at the bottom of my garden!


Hello Dear Reader,

Those who have been reading Frugal Queen from the start know my journey and how difficult it has been. In 2009, we sold our current house and found a little cottage to downsize into. At the 11th hour, our mortgage provider, or should I say the underwriter, pulled our mortgage with the stony words that we had too much on personal borrowing. I should say so, £45,000 of unsecured debt to be exact. We had to stay put with a massive mortgage and pay off the debts we owed at the same time. We paid that back in less than two years and then went on to over pay our mortgage.

Since then, we have drastically reduced our mortgage to the point that we had secured a good amount of capital to move. Even though our house has lost value, we will be moving to a cottage that on the day we turn the key, we will own almost 50% of it! This time, our mortgage has been agreed and the underwriters have no reason at all to withdraw the offer.

Now, my journey to mortgage freedom is real! 

Now you can all share my new journey to a simpler downsized life. A smaller house and little garden. Other than that, nothing will change. In fact, it will renew my desire to live a simple and frugal life as I will be able to increase the percentage I over pay by as I will have more disposable income. I will also be able to save more and have more financial security.

Thank you to everyone who believed in me and your steadfast support through the dark times as it was your light and hope that got me here today.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxxxx

Let the downsizing begin!



Hello Dear Reader,

As promised, the house is on the market! We’ve had a wonderful time living here but it’s time to move on and find a small home just for Dear Beloved and me. I’ve just surfaced from an eleven hour migraine and have had another day in bed! Hopefully, with a smaller house, I’ll spend the first weeks of the school holiday in France and resting…………well, that’s the plan.

Click HERE to go to the Rightmove sight and the listing for our house. 

Tomorrow, we’re off to view two cottages! One in a tiny moorland village and one here in Liskeard! 

Let the downsizing begin!

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Apologies for my absence.

Hello Dear Reader,

Apologies for my absence, I’ve been horizontal for a few days – no need for details. I’ve dragged myself to the TV every night for the last three weeks for the one sporting spectacle that I watch every year and follow now matter which team is winning, where the best riders come from or who the current sponsors are. 

I’ve watched every stage of the Tour de France. Firstly, like so many Brits, I am totally in love with France and everything French. My French holidays have given me my love of cycling and the ‘Tour’ has given me the ambition to get really fit so I can ride ‘L’etape de tour’.(approx 100km)

 On January 1st, I was 14 and a half stone, today I weighed in a 12 stone and 4 lbs and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. Like so many Brits, who watched the Olympics last year and became part of the  ‘Olympic legacy’ as I’m not the only person who decided that this was the year I AM going to get fit and be a healthier person. 

I couldn’t blog last night if I tried! I watched the final stage (that mattered) on Saturday and knew that Chris Froome was the winner and then watched the run into Paris live on Sunday night. Mark Cavendish just couldn’t win another Champs Elysees stage as Marcel Kittel turned out to be the better rider on the night. I watched every minute from my bed, with the sound on quiet and the lights dimmed and even feeling rough, I couldn’t miss it.

It’s those moments that remind me WHY am am frugal!

From Froogs’ bucket list….”12. Cycle one of the stages of the Tour de France…..even if it takes all week!(Thinking of it………or even a fortnight.) Add to that…ride a proper road bike.
13. Hire/own a camper van and follow Tour de France and write a chalk messages on the roads.”

Dreams don’t come cheap and they are not attainable with a massive mortgage. Being frugal now, means I can have choices later. That means, later I will be able to afford a road bike, later I will be able to afford cycling holidays, later I will be able to go to the Pyrenees. I’m still ill tonight and I haven’t surfaced since Saturday but it’s the dreams that keep me going.


Thanks for the incredible camera work, helicopter and bike shots of every piece of the action and to the riders for a fantastic tour. Roll on 2014, when I will be going back to France (busy saving every penny now so I can) and roll on the next Tour.

Until tomorrow (when I’m hopefully able to stand),

Love Froogs xxxxxxxxx

All systems go!

 Hello Dear Reader!

This is the first chance I’ve had to chat with you all day! 

House has been valued and we have instructed an estate agent and signed a contract. We saw a few agents, picked one and went and filled in the paperwork in their local office. We will sell for £250,000 and will take offers as near to that as possible. In truth, the house is worth more than that but there is the stamp duty threshold at that amount and purchasers would be taxed out of paying any more. I’ll explain this to overseas readers. Stamp duty is a sales tax and is set at 1% for properties from £125000 – £250000. You can not get a mortgage for this amount of tax and the purchaser has to pay this out of collateral. Our house is actually worth around £265000 but that means a purchaser would have to find over seven thousand pounds from personal expenses and that could mean that we’ll continue to pay a massive mortgage for another twelve months or more and not sell the house. We will make a loss on our house and sell it for less than we bought it for but we will be buying a house that was once worth a lot more than it is now, so the loss is relative. We are flexible about what we buy and where we live as long as we remain in South East Cornwall. Ideally, we’ll move out towards Bodmin Moor and we’ll be more rural but we will look at all areas and all types of house.

We’ve had a day of trades in and out! A builder has been here for two days and has rebuilt the garden paths and repaired the patio and all the niggly little jobs in the house. We’ve taken up one of the paths and DB has been smashing it to bits with a sledgehammer and he’s been bagging rubble and taking it to the tip. I’ve weeded three borders and dug in compost and top dressed them with wood chip to mulch it. 

We’ve also had a ‘quoting’ day. We’ve organised a gardener to come and cut back all the hedges (we have a big garden and we pay someone to do this every summer) and trim all the shrubs and trees in the garden. Fortunately, gardeners are cheaper than builders………………can’t afford Monty Don but do want a manicured garden that buyers will love and it’s worth the investment to get it sold as soon as possible. We’ve also organised a cleaning company to come and clean the carpets and upholstery so at least the purchaser won’t feel they have to spend money on new carpets straight away. Another point for overseas readers, purchasers will haggle for every point to get a lower price so vendors try to pre-empt what they might fuss about and do something about it before they sell. All of this is expensive but so is paying thousands a month in mortgage repayments. 

I couldn’t afford to hire the BBC’s Monty Don to work in my garden! 


Onto the recycling. We’ve been to the recycling centre with a trailer full already. We’ve taken rubble, weeds and garden cuttings, old clothes have gone to charity as has spare bedding. I’ve sifted through cake tins, saucepans, kitchen equipment and have also given that to a local resettlement charity. 

We’ve also prepared the kitchen and utility room for painting by washing down walls and ceilings, we’ll sand down wood work tomorrow and start by under coating and then apply a coat a day in the evenings after work. 

I’m exhausted by just reliving my day. I went to price up fabric to make new curtains and found ready made curtains to be cheaper than I could make them! The bedrooms will all be repainted and have new curtains that will be included in the sale of the house. Again, it’s something else the purchaser can’t knock us down on as they will get brand new curtains in all of the four bedrooms! I have two weeks to get the house ready to go on the market and all systems are go! If you want to take a look at the sort of house we’re looking for take a look HERE ( we hope to buy a house under the stamp duty threshold)

On that note, I’m off to bed! Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xx