Part of our decision to move full-time into Dixie (the Backwards Van) was, like a lot of life’s decisions, financially based. W.E. (William & Elizabeth) were sick and tired of watching our money disappear from our account; rent, utilities, food and all the day-to-day “necessities” that most people take for granted were really making us question our disposable, take-away lifestyle, and left us wondering were we living to work, or working to live? How was it that at the end of each month we were really no better off financially than before? Where does our money go, and why do we (as a society) seem to accept that this is the way it is, the way it was and the way it always will be? We wanted to travel, but could we ever be able to afford it, living like this?
We took the first step toward our version of financial freedom over 3 years ago. It started with a conversation about utility bills. At the time we were living in separate houses with seperate accounts. Consolidating these just made sense. We began to look closer at the services used, talked a lot about needs versus wants, and practically overnight we cut the amount of household utility bills from 8 per month to only 4. (We could do a whole post on the direct debit and why it is a savers worst nightmare!) A simple example is a cell phone bill. Changing to a pay-as-you-go system eliminates the government tax payable, as well as the cell company’s many hidden fees, and we found in reality we needed only about $40 credit, instead of the $115 previously paid monthly. WI-FI is everywhere these days and we are all guilty of spending too much time with our faces to screens anyway. Win-win.
So where else could we shave off a few quid? It became addictive, like a game, to see how a little flexibility and a lot of thought could make that bank balance a little fatter. Rent/mortgage remains most people’s biggest expense, so we found a smaller, unfurnished place right away, saving us over 30% on our worst monthly I.O.U. A great start, right? If you don’t rent, shop around on your mortgage (apparently it’s possible, we don’t know) As it happened, we ended up living much closer to work, and could walk now instead of relying on public transport or spending on fuel… another big saving, and walking to work beats paying for a gym anyday.
Frugality teaches flexibility. We furnished the new house with items given away, for free, on a local Facebook group. We didnt need fancy, just functional. There is a lot of advice, tips and tricks about saving available online, we devoured it. Our favourite blog is chock-full of help on how to increase your net worth and pay down debts. Check them out below and sign up for the newsletter:
There are a few mind games we play with ourselves too. We didn’t make a purchase, any purchase, without evaluating it, from all angles, no matter what it was. The trick here is to wait a week before you hand your money over, most of the time we found we felt differently about our “need” by the end of the week, so holding off on impulsive purchasing really works! Convenience comes at a price, and we were no longer willing to pay! Brown bag lunches, homemade picnics and downloaded movies replaced takeways and dates. We saved a huge amount of money (and hangovers) by cutting out alcohol altogether. We sent anything unwanted to the consignment store for somebody else to love and got 50% of the eventual sale price back. We did nothing that wasn’t free to participate in (except the odd museum entry fee or charity event), and we learned a lot about what we actually enjoy spending our time on in the process.
There are obviously some things one has to spend money on, like healthcare, clothing and food. But with a little thought, and a bit of forward planning, we shopped cleverly and cheaply. By the end of our time living in a “bricks-and-mortar” house, we were saving 70-80% of our income every month, quite impressive! Since we bought Dixie with cash, generate our own electricity and have finally no sneaky direct debits to consider (except Netflix, because movies obviously!), we are beginning to reap the benefits of our hard work and planning!
Putting your expenses under a microscope is very revealing. What came out of our budgetting taught us to identify how little we actually need to not just survive, but to be content, to right-size our lives to fit us and not what society tells us.
It might sound like we are now where we wanted to go, but frugality has become a huge part of our lives, and the new mind game we play is called Day Zero… with all the rules and regulations it deserves it’s own post entirely. 😊