If there’s one thing that brings judgement out in people other than chronic illness it is money. It’s actually something that really grinds my gears because it’s entirely up to someone how they spend their money. Just because you don’t see value in something, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t. When people gossip about how many holidays someone has or that they spend X amount on Y, it strikes me as nothing other than trying to put someone else down. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
People don’t talk about earnings or what they do with their money. Money is a very personal thing. But people are always quick to judge others. I have always lived within my means and been a saver. Being good with money is definitely one of my strengths. Even if it’s only a few quid I have spare, it goes straight into my savings.
I’ve had comments from people that imply the question “how can I afford Vital Plan when it is so expensive?” The truth is, like everything in life, it all comes down to priorities and living within your means. I am not going to go into the ins and outs of my situation but do know that money is tight and we are far from being considered well off. However, I have been able to save something each month and for the past few months that I have been off sick, I have saved like a crazy person because I knew I would need something to live off of until my husband was able to find full-time work (he has just graduated from university and I knew that I wouldn’t be paid sick pay forever). That’s the situation we are in now. I know that money is difficult for many with chronic illness and I appreciate that there will be people who are worse off than me. I know my advice won’t help everyone. But I thought I would share some of the things that I do in the hope they might help someone:
Here’s how I manage money:
1/ Create A Spreadsheet Of Your Expenditures
I have to credit my husband with this one. He has an Excel spreadsheet that includes every monthly expense. This includes our mortgage payment, bills and all living costs. Basically, what we need at minimum to survive every month. It’s easy to lose track of your spending when you don’t have it written down in black and white. From this spreadsheet, it’s clear to see exactly how much money we need to pay out each month. Next to this we have what our income is and then make Excel do a quick sum to see what the difference between the two figures is.
2/ Save At The Beginning Of Every Month
How many of you wait until the end of the month to put any left over money into savings? I find that doing this means I am more likely to spend any extra money on unnecessary things. Instead, I refer to the spreadsheet to see if any income will be left over and then move that amount straight into a savings account. It forces me to be more thoughtful about my spending and will make me question if I really need to buy something or whether I actually prefer to see the money in my savings.
3/ Cut Costs
Everything for us is about cutting costs where we can. We have managed to reduce mobile phone bills, electricity/gas, insurance… it’s amazing what you can save when you threaten to quit a contract. Another big area where we have saved money is food shopping. We don’t shop in the one big supermarket any more. Some items (such as the free from stuff I need like coconut milk) we need to buy in Sainsburys or Asda but if we did our whole shop there, it would cost more than buying elsewhere. We now mostly shop in Aldi. It has honestly saved us so much.
A lot of people assume that eating healthily equals higher costs. But in our case we spend less on food shopping now and I feel better for eating healthier. Result!
4/ Live Without Luxuries
Anything out with our monthly expenditure sheet is considered a luxury and I only buy something if we can afford it. We need to treat ourselves to some things (an example for me would be the Glitterati) but I also go without a lot of things or really ask myself if I need to buy something. There’s a big difference between want and need. I don’t spend huge amounts on new clothes or make-up, for example. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke (never have). We hardly ever get take-aways and eating out is a rare occasion. I guess one bonus of fibro is that I have saved money on nights out because it’s something I haven’t been able to manage! There’s also the more simple things like my husband will now make packed lunches over buying pre-packaged sandwiches. At the end of the day it’s up to you where and if you spend your cash but there is generally small ways you can save that end up making a big difference. Like I said, it’s all about priorities.
5/ Pay With Cash
Paying by card is easy. So easy that it can often lead to over spending. We have a budget for things like food shopping that we absolutely stick to. One way we manage this is by lifting out the exact amount we have to spend on our shop and by paying for it with that cash. It means we can’t over spend and forces us to be more conscientious about our spending.
6/ Don’t Get Into Debt
I don’t own a credit card. I was always brought up with the mindset of “if you want something, save up for it and then buy it when you can afford it”. Obviously big things like mortgages or buying a car are a bit different (so long as you can afford the repayments). I’m talking about all those luxuries that you don’t need. I won’t get into debt for holidays, clothes, gadgets… whatever. I just don’t. If I couldn’t afford to go on holiday, I wouldn’t go. It’s as simple as that.
I should point out here that it is beneficial to have a credit card in some instances. For example, if you are making a large purchase it makes sense to use a credit card over a debit card purely for the added protection it affords you, should anything go wrong. However, I strongly subscribe to the belief that you should have the money upfront and then pay it off straight away.
7/ Keep A Rainy Day Fund
You never know what is going to happen in life. It makes sense to have savings so that you don’t suddenly find yourself in a sticky situation. If I did not have the foresight to have saved like crazy, Ross and I would be up shit creek without a paddle right now. We need what I’ve managed to save to top up his income from part-time work to cover our basic living costs. Savings offer you a cushion should the unexpected happen.
I treat my savings like this. I aim to keep a base amount in my savings account. That amount is what makes me feel safe and it’s going to be totally individual depending on your circumstances; there’s no right amount or a specific amount you should aim to have. My theory is that, should anything crop up, this fund will hopefully mean we will be able to deal with it without it causing significant stress. Until I go over this base point, the money is considered untouchable. I won’t dip into it unless I absolutely need to in order to cover our basic living costs.
This makes it sound as though I always manage to have that base amount in my account but that’s not true. Certainly it’s going to get depleted without being topped up until my husband can land a job. We’re just hoping that happens sooner rather than later! That’s real life; things do crop up and savings can be continually depleted. It’s up, down, up, down (or in our case just now, down, down, down!). The point is, if I don’t surpass that base number, I don’t spend money on things I don’t need. Simple as that.
Even if I do surpass that figure, it’s not the green light to go on a shopping spree. I will only dip into my savings and spend money on something if I really, really want it!
If you’re not able to save at all, ask yourself if you are truly living within your means and if there is anything you can do without. I’m not being flippant here, I know there are plenty of people who scrimp just to get by and live pay cheque to pay cheque. However, I also know of others who plead poverty but who are actually reckless spenders. Okay that point might make me come across as judgey right after I just said I don’t like people judging others when it comes to money. I’m not, I honestly don’t care how people choose to spend their money. My point is in my wording, “plead poverty”. Don’t plead poverty when you’re skint because of poor decisions and don’t try to make other people feel guilty about it or sorry for you… but I digress! Ahem.
This All Works For Me
You may be reading all of this and think I am completely crazy and that life is for living and sod saving! Fair enough, that’s your prerogative. This is just what works for me. Yes, living within our means and prioritising saving has meant that we don’t live a life of luxury. Our daily life is pretty basic. But we don’t feel as though we go without. We are able to afford amazing things because of this way of life. So next time you wonder how someone can afford to buy something or go on yet another holiday… maybe think about what they might go without to be able to afford that.
Like I have said throughout this post, it’s all about priorities. What do you think?