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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Welcome to my no-spend month

keep-calm-and-don-t-spend-money

Hello Dear Reader,

It’s October and doesn’t it come round really quickly. Every year, I have a fiscal fast in October. I buy food from the supermarket which I cook at home and fuel for the car to get to work and that’s it. I don’t take any cash from the cash point and neither of us spend any money on anything except: direct debits for bills and household running costs, food,  and fuel until the 1st of November. Our autumn half term break is in October and we don’t spend any money then either. No charity shops, no ebay buys, no outlet purchases no matter how much of a bargain. Any sales that pop up in emails will be deleted unopened and our purses will stay firmly shut.

We’ve prepared with toiletries and cleaning materials for the month and there’s nothing we need that we don’t already have. We don’t eat out more than once in a very blue moon anyway and the same goes for a takeaway. I bought some new work shoes yesterday from Clarks online outlet so if you see me collecting them (click and collect doesn’t incur a delivery charge) from the local store, I’ve already confessed that all £28 of them (half price) was paid for on the last day of September.

You might wonder why we do this. When we were seriously in debt from 2009 –  2011, we lived like this every day. We stopped spending on anything but necessities completely until we were debt free and this month of non-spending realigns our priorities towards saving. Most weeks for us are non-spend weeks and our only expenses are food and fuel but we all have our downfalls. We love books and trawl charity shops for books and we’ve got plenty we haven’t read yet so we don’t need any more. I’m a quilter and have enough fabric for current projects and I aim to complete some unfinished projects this month. So, like anyone, I’m liable to spend money when I don’t need to and this month reminds me that I already have all I need.

Don’t feel any need to join in or tell me why you can’t join in as what you spend or don’t spend is entirely up to you. I will however share with you how I’ll manage this for the month. I must admit that I do most of them any way.

  1. Take tea bags and coffee to work everyday and make my own.
  2. Take my own lunch to work every day.
  3. If we go out, take a flask and packed lunch. We love a car picnic even if it’s wet and cold.
  4. Complete craft projects with resources we already have.
  5. Invite friends to share our food with us and accept invitations to share with them.
  6. Use up what we have: toiletries, fragrance, cleaning materials and long life food such as tins.
  7. Don’t go into any shops other than the supermarket for a month.
  8. Keep busy with the jobs that need doing at home.
  9. Long weekend walks on the moors or beaches at low tide.
  10. We moved any money we didn’t need when we were paid in September straight into savings so we didn’t have any money to spend other than food and fuel. We know the exact amount each month that goes out of direct debits, including standing orders to savings accounts so we always know the amount that can be spent. We moved that amount.

 

It won’t be easy, it never is! Sometimes, I forget and start to plan meeting up with friends and then have to rethink with a no-spend alternative such as a walk and then back to their place or my place for coffee and something homemade. Something will be needed and I’ll just have to grin and bear it until the end of the month.

So, he’s to a month of tight waddery, skin flintery and frugality. Let the annual no spend month commence.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

 

Walk around Huelgoat lake

Hello Dear Reader,

I’m writing this whilst sitting in my garden after a day of doing nothing. Our first week was about decompressing, the three middle weeks were about house renovations and the last week is all for us to just enjoy our surroundings.

Yesterday, we hosted afternoon tea, nibbles, home made food and a few drinks for guests and had a lovely time. This afternoon, we visited more friends and sat in the very warm garden and chatted and had a catch up. We had a leisurely home cooked supper and then took ourselves out for a walk around the lake.

We do this walk most warm evenings. It’s a bit long for our old dogs so we walk them before supper and walk ourselves afterwards.

It looks bigger than it is. It’s an hour’s walk and with the exception of our house being at the top of a hill; it’s mainly flat.

Back towards the village.

Tonight people were fishing on the lake although I’ve never seen any fish.

On the south side of the lake, up a side street is the abandoned isolation hospital which closed a long time ago. It’s beautifully creepy.

Back out into the golden light as the sun was setting.

The hotel is in front of our house. Look straight above the two right hand chimneys and there’s our house on the hill.

The lakeside.

Golden reflections on a golden evening.

We aim to get out and about and visit places. Of course, I’ll share it with you.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

Renovating in France on a budget 


Hello Dear Reader,

Today, I’ve given the bedroom walls two coats of white emulsion, sanded the skirting boards and given then two coats of eggshell. Scrubbed down the shower room walls and given them the first coat of paint. My thrifted side tables have had a third coat of paint too. We have painting to finish but it’s all just tidying from now onwards.

We want to get all the major jobs done by the end of the day tomorrow so we can get onto the fun easy parts. There’s snagging to do but a massive day of work has made such a difference. We’re also pleased that we’ve kept costs to an absolute minimum.

DB fitted the balustrade today that he’d previously painted. Everything needs a light sand and a final coat of paint. He has lights to fit, doors to hang and we have to move furniture around and tidy. We’ve got to keep going even though I’m fed up of renovations and just want to go out and visit about five places I’ve got on my list. Fortunately, none of them are going anywhere so I can save the for trips in the future. 

When I look at the photo above, I marvel at everything he’s done: cutthe hole in the floor, customised the stairs to fit, built the stairs, built the wall and built the balustrades. DB – you are a star! I am so proud of you xxx

It’s slow going but we are getting there.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Pushing on with the thrifty renovations 

Hello Dear Reader,

I have a digital TV recording box for my freesat. I love to watch home Reno and DIY programmes where houses are raised from ruins or built from the ground. Well, I like the beginnings and the ending and the middle bits are boring. Well, right here right now, we’re in the middle boring bit. It’s got to be done and the end results will be worth it. It’ll take a while and at least another year to get our home to gîte standard and a while after that to get it registered and legally up and running. We have a way to go yet but still we must push on. Today, I sanded the stairs and put a stain and sealant on the wood. Each coat will darken the wood.

Here we’re sanding and painting the balustrades for the third floor landing which are easier to paint before we construct them. Tomorrow we’ll build them or try our best to get it done. I’m painting the spare bedroom and today, I did all the cutting in.

I’ve also put another coat of paint on the bedside furniture. When they’re dry and before the final cost, I sand them with fine sandpaper to give them a smooth finish. It’ll all be finished and lovely, just as we’ll be returning to Cornwall. 

We have a massive list of jobs, all of which will be done by to keep the costs low: gravel paths, paint he exterior of the house, tile the bare floors, plant shrubs, build a garden fence. It will all akebtime to save up for and we will do it all eventually.

However long it takes, it will be done on a budget by us.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Feed me I’m tired! 


Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve pushed ourselves hard today and set a deadline for getting this round of renovations complete. We had some pine trees down when we bought the house and the logs have sat in the garden for 18 months. I don’t want to burn them as the resin can damage a flue liner. However, stored for three years in the dry, they are fine and won’t damage a chimney. We offered the ‘green wood’ on Facebook and today, the loveliest couple came with a big van and took it all away. We helped them load their van and found out that they have lots of land where they season wood until they need it. They left us a nice bottle of wine, they have plenty of wood for a few years in the future and our garden is much tidier. It’s always great to meet new people.

As soon as they’d gone, we went back to painting. New plasterboard soaks up paint and it took for coats of paint to get an even finish. We bought Dulux over with us from the UK as French paint is so much more expensive. Tomorrow, I’ll buy some stain to paint the stairs to match the other woodwork in the house. 

We do bits and bobs then get out and about. I’ll do out and about tomorrow and I’m excited about going to Emmaus.

After loads of work, I needed good old fashioned comfort food and made Corned beef hash

To make this:

6 medium potatoes- chopped and boiled until just soft.

3 onions sliced and fried in two tbsp of oil until soft.

1 tin of corned beef, cut into cubes.

Add the cooked potatoes to the pan of fried onions.

Resist the urge to turn, allow it to catch and crash slightly.

Add the chopped corned beef and mix, pat down and continue to cook.

Don’t stir and allow it to crisp.

Cook the top half by placing the pan under a hot grill.

Serve with steamed veggies. Eat, put your feet us and have an early night before all the hard work starts again tomorrow.

We are getting there but soon we’ll have two fully renovated bedrooms, stairs and third floor hallway.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx

Wood heating in France

Hello Dear Reader,

We had our firewood delivered today and the farmer just tipped it by our garden gate which I knew he would. Next, we threw it log by log into our garden no of course it got warmer and warmer. I don’t mind any sort of weather except wind, no one likes that. I’ve a shed full of logs to shlep up the garden, up the steps, round the side, then the back of our house and into our shed where it needs stacking. 

We are surrounded by forests in Brittany and wood is the main source of heating in rural areas. It’s reasonably priced and we bought wood that was cut three years ago, dried and stored in an airy barn. It’s dry and ready to use. I bought over a tonne. 

I enjoy the whole process of heating with wood: it’s prepayment so I can be warm and dry our clothes and not worry about cost, it smells lovely, it’s great exercise and it’s carbon neutral. We had a lovely surprise when the neighbour’s visiting teenage grandchildren came out to help us throw the logs into the garden, how charming. 

It’ll take me a while to move it all over a few days as well as aching muscles but it’ll be worth it to have a well stocked wood shed. I’m off to limber up and then move some wood. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

On your marks, get set, paint! 


Hello Dear Reader,

I’m now back on top form and I’ve painted whatever I could today. We want to finish the painting tomorrow so we can make a start on installing the banisters. I’ll paint them before we install them as they are so fiddly. The dark grainy photo above is the inside wall of the spare bedroom, the light was fading. 

The outside has had a coat of paint, the walls have had a coat of emulsion and I’ve sanded and eggshelled the skirting boards. It’ll all get more paint tomorrow.

Painting over the stairs gives me the jitters but it’s got to be done. On my next trip, I’ll bring some hard wearing floor paint for the treads and risers; maybe a blue grey.

The stair rails have had three coats of paint and have been sanded in between. I keep reminding myself when I’m picking paint out of my teeth that doing it all ourselves is saving us a mass of money. When it’s done, I can do the pretty bits and renovate some furniture and hang pictures, you know, the fun bits. 

My only colour scheme is always white, white and white. It’s the cheapest paint you can buy. When it gets tired or grubby, just go over it with more paint and anything goes with it. It’s simple and bright and never goes in or out of fashion. 

Next summer, we’re really looking forward to painting the outside of the house. That’ll involve long ladders and nerves of steel and a few clean pairs of pants but it’ll all get done eventually as time and budget allows.

Cheap renovation project in France 


Hello Dear Reader,

We’re cracking on with the renovations. It will be finished in a couple of days…….famous last words. I don’t enjoy this bit. It’s noisy, dirty and we get dirty and tired. We try and do as much as we can each day but don’t like to make noise into the evening as this is such a quiet village. I also like to clean thoroughly each evening so it’s not a mess to wake up to.

We take our time, have a lunch break and take the dogs out for plenty of walks. After lunch, we sat and read outside in the sunshine. 

This room will be a guest room for family and friends and it will be insulated and warm. I’ll go to the charity shops next week to buy furniture that I can upcycle. The weather has been cool today which is perfect DIY weather. I’ve no idea how much money we’ve saved by doing the work ourselves. It’s been great fun doing this together,I hold the board in place and DB secures it. I do the insulating. It doesn’t have to be neat as it’ll be covered by plaster board on either side. It’s another skill we’ve learnt out of money saving necessity.

Tonight, we’ll watch a movie, have a glass of wine and just enjoy the peace.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Renovating in France


Hello Dear Reader,

After a week of on and off rain, it’s been great to throw open every door and window and enjoy the sunshine. Above is the view of our open plan living area. My thrifted sofa is covered in blankets as the dogs have commandeered it for themselves. The board is across the bottom of the Stairs to stop the dogs going up.

In between the showers yesterday, I laundered and dried all the towels and bedding and today did the same with our clothes.

Whilst I’ve got on with fussing the dogs, cooking and laundry, Dearly Beloved has made a start on the dividing wall. 

He’d done a lot more by the end of the day but here’s the start. The top floor use to be a self contained studio apartment but it’ll be two separate bedrooms when he’s finished. He does the building and I do the insulation and painting. The garden fence has served as balustrade around the stairs so we didn’t fall down them. They will of course be replaced!

I added the photo below, later in the day.


I made homity pie for supper and tomorrow’s lunch. We’ll eat it with salad. We are still eating at home, I really enjoy having time to cook and amble to the local shop just for a bunch of parsley if I didn’t have any.

To make it, I rolled out gluten free pastry (supermarket ready made!) 

Inside.

1 large tin a new potatoes – roughly chopped – 800g of cooked potatoes 

2 onions and 8 cloves of garlic – chopped and gently sautéed in some olive oil until soft. Don’t cook garlic on a high heat, it’ll burn.

6 florets of broccoli, gently steamed – you could use leeks or spinach, I had half a head of broccoli left.

200g of grated emmental or mature cheddar

Salt and pepper

Handful of chopped parsley

200ml of double cream (or the nearest I could get here in France – crème de Normandie- Entière )

Toss the lot together and pour into the pastry case. 

Bake at 180/200 for 40 minutes. It’s creamy, cheesy and loaded with garlic. O

I use a heavy metal deep quiche dish so I don’t blind bake.

Another day in thrifty homemade France.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx