Monday, 22 September 2008
Since becoming ill and having to give up work, the money the state are willing to give me through income support and disability living allowance are all I have. It’s not a lot but I’m not complaining because I manage just fine. There isn’t room for many luxuries but then I don’t need them either so that doesn’t really matter.
What amazes me though is the number of people who say “you seem to be doing well on benefits” as if I’m fiddling the system somehow. I don’t know whether they think I’m selling imported fags and booze on the side, dealing drugs or running a secret brothel but I can assure you that I’m not. My benefits are my ONLY source of income.
By ‘doing well’ these people are referring to the fact that I’ve paid off a relatively large chunk of my debt, saved quite a bit towards my new kitchen and can afford to eat out occasionally and take a holiday once a year. But the only reason I’m ‘doing well’ is because I’m frugal. I’m careful with my pennies and never buy anything unless I either really need it or absolutely love it. Things that ‘might come in handy’ or that are fashionable fads just don’t get past the door. I repair things rather than buy new and I look for stuff that’s either second-hand or on offer. Most times, these things are better quality than they would have been had I paid a lot more for them and certainly better than their full-price, brand new counterparts at the same price. I look for things that will stand the test of time so tend to go for classic or quirky things rather than what’s fashionable.
I use websites like Quidco for money-back and use just one credit card for most spending and then pay it off immediately so that I can take advantage of the cash-back. Price comparison sites are always useful and I visit MoneySavingExpert regularly to pick up tips and hints.
I stick to a list when I’m grocery shopping, menu plan and batch cook so that there’s as little waste as possible. Next year I’m hoping to grow some of my own vegetables too, although that depends on what my health’s like at the beginning of the season.
By cutting back on stuff doesn’t make my life any worse - in fact, most of it enriches my life because I’m able to enjoy a few luxuries too. The occasional meal out with family or friends, a visit to the cinema or the theatre, a trip to Norway to see my family and friends there, or a holiday just for the sake of getting a break. But even then I look for the best deals and I still live frugally on holiday, although perhaps not quite as frugally as otherwise.
Tracking helps too. Knowing exactly where my money goes is important to me - how would I know where to cut back otherwise? I track all my expenditure, whether it’s bills, shopping, or anything else. I honestly think a lot of people would be shocked if they realised just how much they spend on ‘rubbish’ - stuff they really don’t need.
I’m not ‘tight’ - I often invite family and friends round for a meal and I’m happy to help out those in need - I just don’t throw my money away. That way I ‘do well’ on my relatively small income and although frugality isn’t glamorous, it’s very satisfying and means I can live in a way I’m happy with on a relatively small income. I really don’t have much to complain about.