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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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

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.

Keeping clean on a budget 

                       

Hello Dear Reader,

Not knowing how to do something does not make someone stupid. People grow up unable to cook, budget, make do and mend, thrift and so on. They are not stupid. There are some experiences that people don’t have until they need to and then they have to learn. No one should ever be condemned, shamed or blamed but some people haven’t had the experience of keeping clean on a minuscule budget. Currently, in the U.K. Families are having to cut back on hygiene as they can’t afford to keep clean. Now, we can add hygiene poverty to, heating poverty, food poverty, water poverty and period poverty.

I’m not referring to issues such as buying cheaper shower gel but not being able to afford to heat water or pay the water bill! People of my age remember the Rayburn, parkray or emmersion heater being cranked up on a Sunday night, pushing the financial boat out to fill and turn on the paraffin heater in the bathroom and that was the weekly bath! The rest of the week was a ‘strip wash’. Younger people, may never have learned these skills.

Hair was washed in the bathroom sink with two ‘fill ups’ for a couple of rinses and that was that. Now, I’m not suggesting anyone relives the 70s and 80s with me as I think people are genuinely cleaner now for a daily shower. However, people are living in desperate times where  food and living costs means they have very little money for personal hygiene.

Here, for what it’s worth are my tips and feel free to ignore them.

Basics – I don’t buy a lot of toiletries and happily use soap bars, shampoo, talc and anti perspirant and I buy those in Poundland. Even cheaper versions would be a litre of bath gel which is no different from shower gel for 50p. I used it for years and topped up shower gel bottles and hand wash pumps. I currently use Vosene shampoo from Poundland but I used to use Tesco everyday basics shampoo that’s 50p a litre. I buy anti perspirant for a Pound and get through a can a week. Lidl and Aldi have really large cans for 79p, that I pick up when I’m there. The only other product I use is Aldi’s moisturiser for £1.69 and that can last me almost a month.

Water costs – I live in the South West Water area and we have the most expensive water in the UK so I’m used to saving water. I have a gas boiler which heats water on demand and have previously owned an electric shower which also heated water on demand. I have the cheapest tariff for gas and electric and I pay by direct debit. I never leave a tap running, I’m used to jumping in a cold shower and not wasting water whilst it warms up and washing head to toe, including my hair in under five minutes and jumping out. Here in France, we have a tiny hot water tank and we still have to have very quick showers so we can get two showers out of one small tanks. 

Short of water and means of heating it. If you have a prepayment meter and you have the lowest of incomes then a shower is not an affordable daily option. Growing up, many of us didn’t have showers and managed to keep clean.


Above, is my bathroom sink (from our previous home, before we downsized) and I kept a bowl in the sink as I used the water to flush the loo. I used to keep a kettle on the landing and use a kettle full of boiling water to warm up a bowl of cold water. 

First, I’d wash my hair and then in the second rinse water, wash myself from top to bottom with a flannel and bar of soap.  I used to put the loo lid down, place the bowl on the floor to finish by washing my feet. Again, the water went down the loo. Three bowlfuls would be the most I’d need, that’s about seven litres of water. I went to work fresh and clean and I used to shower twice a week. 

Now, I shower daily, have enough hot water, enough toiletries but I’m mindful that people are going through tough times. Local foodbanks are grateful for donations of any: toiletries, sanitary protection, laundry products, loo rolls and cleaning products. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Flat packed furniture in France 

Hello Dear Reader,

Emmaüs in Morlaix is half an hour from our home and we try to visit there every trip. We’ve just bought small items of furniture on our two previous trips but this time we bought an armoire which fortunately came apart with a series of bolts and catches.

One of the chaps in the shop dismantled it for us, gathered up all the screws and then all we had to do was fit it into and on top of our car. DB secured it really really firmly as we didn’t want anything falling out of the back of the car.

We then carried, piece by piece up the garden path, round the back of the house and up the exterior stairs to the top floor and stacked it up.

It took about twenty minutes to take apart and two hours to assemble. 

Here’s our reassembled thrifted armoire that cost us 60€, some time and a bit of effort. It’s effectively flat packed furniture even though it’s all wood. Now we know how to take it apart and get it home, we’ll aim to have one in every room.

We aim to get our new bedroom completely finished so we can sleep in there for a couple of nights. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Paint, rest, paint


Hello Dear Reader,

What a day! I was up early to catch the good weather and get some laundry on the line and then get on with sanding furniture and adding a couple more coats of paint. When I went out to check in the washing later, I noticed that the side wall of the house was wet even though the sun had dried out the other walls. We’d had a leak and had to remove some of the stud wall and get the leak fixed. Luckily, a friend/hero came to our rescue and fixed it. It’s now drying out with a dehumidifier which has set us back a day but it would have been a lot worse if I’d not de I to have done some washing.

We’ve met some lovely people in Huelgoat, including a couple who have rescued dogs from as far as Ireland, Spain and here in France. They give these ageing and unwanted dogs the loveliest life on a French smallholding. We went for a barbeque lunch in their beautiful garden. Lunch lasted the rest of the day and then we came home and put our feet up and this evening, we’ve had another few hours painting.

Tomorrow, we shall plod on with more renovations and head over to Emmaüs in Morlaix to look for an armoire in the afternoon. Like any charity shop shopping, we could be lucky but we may well come back empty handed. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

My packing is weirder than your packing!

loaded cart

Hello Dear Reader,

If and when you go somewhere, you pack clean clothes, food, books, amusement, a coat, umbrella and maybe even sunblock. It’s way different for us. When you’re renovating a house on a tiny budget then the roof of my car feels as if it’s loaded like Buckaroo! On the roof of the car this time will be a room size rug we bought for £42 and an oil filled electric radiator we got cheap from freeads for £10 as we work towards every room having a rug and a radiator.

Inside the car will be paint as French paint is five times the price and it’s like painting with skimmed milk so we take at least two pots every time we go. There will also be sand paper, sugar soap, paint brushes and rollers as we move into the next stage of renovation of one of the rooms. Our aim is to get our bedroom finished in a few days, move the furniture and move in to it. I have furniture to paint whilst DB has the walls and door to finish as well as changing the British plugs to French plugs on some lamps we bought ages ago, again really cheaply, from TK Max with a gift voucher. We are still a way off hanging curtains and I don’t think we’ll get to the finished stage until next year. When you work to a budget and stick to it, you  have to be patient and work slowly.

Every time I go, I take something else I’ve found cheap, in a charity shop or totally free and donated or given away. I’m never going to buy new if I can get it ‘recycled as I can’t stand waste, hate the thought of good stuff going to landfill and want to make every pound do the work of a fiver! Yes, I’m tightfisted and proud of it! If I can do my bit to stop waste then I certainly will even if it means my packing is weirder than your packing.

In my defence, I’m not the only one. I really should take photographs of the weird things in the backs of cars, in trailers and on the roof embarking the ferry. I’ve seen trailers full of fruit trees in pots, sewerage systems, hot water tanks, wood stoves, garden fence and double glazed windows. I can also spot the renovators as we’re in our ‘holiday’ clothes of paint spattered jeans and with grout under our fingernails as we’ve worked right up to departure time and worked on the basis of ‘there’s a shower in my cabin and we’ve turned the water off in the house’. Obviously, there are people who might get someone else to do all the work, but they are in disguise are regular tourists.

I’ll keep you up to date with the renovations, the dog walks, the mini week long adventure and my little French village as it warms up in the bank holiday sunshine. We’re aiming to scout round for some second hand furniture to fill up some of the empty rooms and I’ll share some of our forays into charity shops and ‘le bon coin’ as we start making the house more homely.

Who knows, in time, it might be you renting it for one of your holidays.

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Until Saturday,

Love Froogs xxxx

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,

 

What is life like without debt or credit?


Hello Dear Reader,

We became debt free in 2011 and have stayed that way ever since. We’ve not used a credit card since 2009 and we’ve just learned to live beneath our means. As Mr Micawber would say “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure £19 and 9 shillings, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure £20, result misery”

So, how is our life a bit different from other people. We certainly spend and have what we need but it’s always done with some planning and budgeting. We know what we will spend on Birthdays, Christmas, holidays and anything else that we buy. We save up for everything we need. 

Neither DB or I have expensive work do’s. His work doesn’t have one at all and mine, which I’m going to, is £4. I think we can work those two costs into the budget. Previously, we’ve both turned down the £25 a head Christmas, end of term celebrations as just beyond our budgets. It’s often difficult to say no, or do something different around our peers. 

It’s somewhat easy for us now, we don’t really do a conventional consumerist Christmas and haven’t done so for years. It’s a lovely time off, a few homemade treats (isn’t everyone looking forward to a mince pie?) and time for each other and our nearest and dearest.

What though if you are new to this? What was it like when it was new to us? Well, there’s no easy way to say this but it was really hard. We said no to everything when we were in debt and paying off debts. Now, we say no to anything that we personally feel is a waste of our own money. People used to challenge us, saying we could afford something and we used to kindly explain that we were paying off debts, or saving up for something important and were being careful with what we did with our incomes. 

It’s certainly easier now, these are hard times for everyone and we’re no longer the thrifty minority but part of the growing majority of people for whom every pound has to do the work of a fiver! Maybe us frugals led the way? Who knows?

Life now is very different. The fire is lit, we can afford plenty of firewood. The freezer and pantry is stocked. The bank accounts are managed to work for us and we regularly pay in savings for: our holiday in France next year, long term saving fund for a new roof and medium term savings for a new boiler. It’s all in the plan. What’s the same? We don’t eat out more than on the most rarest of occasions (we had fish and chips in Looe in the summer and again in the autumn when we visited Whitby) I still shop the sales, charity shops and look out for household items in the freeads and ebay. If we continue to be careful then we will continue to be solvent. 


We used to be skint and now we’re comfortable.

Our past did not define us.


Life without debt or credit is now our normal.
Froogs xxxxxx

Who wants to be a miser?


Hello Dear Reader,

There are loads of ways that I save money every day. I always take my coffee and lunch to work everyday. I shop for groceries with a budget and stick to it. I home cook all our meals. If we go out for the day, we take food with us. Our central heating is set low and on for an hour a day on working days and two hours a day on other days. The thermostat is set to 17 degrees. Our main heat source is our wood burner and we buy wood for £100 a tonne and it’s bought and paid for when we use it. We buy two or three new items of good quality clothing a year and wear it for years. 

We had two holidays last year (one was our honeymoon) so we won’t be having one this year. We’ve eaten out once this year and my daughter treated me for Mother’s Day; other than that we don’t eat out. We don’t eat takeaways or ready meals. Christmas and Birthday celebrations are kept to the bare minimum (a nice meal on either occasions and no gifts). Most days are no spend days. A spend day is rare.

You may ask what am I being frugal for? I’m saving for a new car but will admit that prices are rising so fast that I’ll never get there. I’m also using most of our incomes to pay off £18,000 – £20,000 of the capital on our mortgage this year. The amount we will pay back will increase each year as the interest payments decrease. We also save monthly for any additional costs our home might incur such as plumbing repairs or general maintenance. 

I don’t save money for the sake of simply saving it; to look at a balance sheet and marvel at the amount. I’m saving and living a simple and frugal life for a reason. If I want a new sofa, then I will have been frugal to save for it. If I want a new car, I’ll have been frugal to save almost half the balance of the new car and I’ll have to be very frugal to make the car payments each month. If I want to buy fabric at a quilting show or plants at a flower show, then I’ve saved the money and hand over cash. 

I’m frugal but live in a warm and comfortable home. I’m frugal but eat well and I’m frugal but invest in my health and well being and that includes working towards weight loss. My blog is my online diary where I document my daily comings and goings and that might include trips to Ikea to look at sofas or the local dealerships to look at cars. At some stage, I’m going to spend money on something or other. 


 To the reader who doesn’t like my choices, feel free not to read my blog. But think of this, every time you come back and comment and keep my visitor numbers high, you make my blog more profitable for me. 

Over to you Dear Reader, does anyone want to be a miser? I don’t want to be a miser but live sensibly and carefully and can and will spend if I want to. Who else saves for a reason such as retirement, having holidays, taking their children out and about or living as they choose? I look forward to your comments.


Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx