Monday, 22 September 2008

Living Off Of A Little

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.

Sharon J


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Ian said...

Hi there,

Sorry to be a bit off-topic here, but I was contacted by a blogger( has you on her blog roll.

I'm an author and she wrote to thank me for writing a book I had written called 'A Place in My Country: In Search of a Rural Dream'.

This is what Becoming Domestic wrote in her email to me:

"I found your book in our local library and have enjoyed it tremendously.
Your story and those of your friends in Marsham is told so well. Before reading it I was concerned with leaving behind the final trappings of modern
life which may not be accessible in Cornwall but now realize I have so much to take their place.

I'm buying a copy of your book for my husband I know he'll enjoy it as much as me.

Thanks for writing it."

I hope you don't mind but I thought it might therefore appeal to you too, as she has you on her blogroll.

Here's the Amazon reference but it is published by Phoenix in paperback and was published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson last year.

If your blog has heaps of traffic I may even be able to get my publisher to send you a free copy if you tell them that you will review and blog about it, but they are rather mean when it comes to bloggers! (Why is beyond me.)

Anyway, there it is. Again, hope you don't object to this shameless self-promotion.

Kind regards,
P.S You might also be interested in a hobby of mine:

Sharon J said...

Hi Ian. Thanks for dropping by.

Yes, your comment is a bit off topic for this particular post but not for the blog so I'll let you off ;) I'm sure plenty of my visitors would find your book interesting - I'll ask my local library to buy it in as I'd love to read it (I rarely buy books new these days - part of my savings drive).

As for the number of visitors I get, according to my stats it's around 110 a day - not exactly loads! Never mind, if the library does get it in, I'll review it anyway :)

Take care.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm a friend in real life I'd rather stay anonymous here but wanted to say that it really amazes me how well you manage on the money you have and how positive your attitude is. You have a really cosy home (apart from the kitchen but I'm sure that will soon change once you get it fixed up and put your personal touch to it) and to think you did it on a strict budget makes it even better. It's far more comfortable and inviting than a lot of peoples homes even when they've spent thousands on furniture and accesories. Well done!

Lizzie said...

Hi Sharon
I wonder if you are right, do we assume someone must be fiddling their benefit if they can manage it properly. What pessimistic souls we have become. I can remember being on benefits years ago when OH was made redundant when I was pregnant. I managed to manage, if you see what I mean, but if there was a problem I was stuffed. If you can also manage holidays and a bit of refurbishment then I am well impressed. I am glad you are blogging & giving others the chance to learn from you.
Best wishes

Frugal Trenches said...

You are a real inspiration Sharon!

Sharon J said...

@ Anonymous. You've really got me wondering who you are now. But thanks for the compliment - I like my home too :)

@ Lizzie. For a long time I just managed to manage. Scraped by, never really having enough and certainly not building up any savings. But then my mindset changed and I realised that I was actually wasting far too much money even though I thought I was being careful. It wasn't until I started tracking my spending that I realised just where it was going and could make some important changes.

I know there are people who believe I'm fiddling the benefits but I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that I'm not.

@ Frugal Trenches. I just hope that I can help others learn to live a better life on a little :)