One of the most asked questions, we are given when I tell people about the tour is: are you working when you’re on your travels? When we tell people no, they often ask how have you managed to save enough money?
Well, how have we managed to save so much money?
The long and short of it is we massively cut down on our outgoings.
Just under two years ago, we began getting into a pickle with our money. We were in a big car crash, writing off our car in the same week as Ryan becoming unemployed, we were obviously worrying a lot about money. We used a website called Money Dashboard to analyse our spending and break it down into easy to understand information. According to their website, their aim is to make the ‘often-confusing world of personal finance more open, transparent and accessible for everyone’. All you have to do is you enter your account data into the website, including partners details, or credit cards, and it does the rest of the work for you. It told us where a good portion of our money was going and made our money more straightforward to understand. We only used it for a brief period to gain some knowledge and insight into our financial situation. But if you’re not really sure where the start, I would recommend using it to give you a basic understanding of the trends of your money. In the same week, I transferred the balance of my credit card onto a new interest-free credit card; this was after finding out how much we had paid in interest on the old card.
Since then we have become much more sensible with our money, keeping a cautious eye on our online banking.
Currently, we are putting over a 1/3 of our income each month away into a savings account and we’re not really running that short towards the end of the month. This is made much easier by the fact we have gradually, over the past couple of years, cut down on our spending.
So, let me break some our outgoings for you:
Rent – In today’s financial times you can be hard pressed by rising renting prices and even higher buying costs. In May 2016, Ryan and I uprooted our life in Manchester to moved to rural North Wales. This was a very necessary choice, Ryan was going to be travelling to Bangor University each day and I to Liverpool John Moores University. Essentially we looked at a map and split the difference to each uni and move right there. Both with an hour+ commute but finally living alone together for the first time in our relationship, we were overjoyed. Since then we have moved again, probably about 10 miles or so down the road to an idyllic bungalow in the middle of nowhere (insert heart eyes emoji). Grateful was our student budget when the renting prices were almost half of that in Manchester, our first house was only £375 for a one-bed terrace and our current home, a detached bungalow, is £425. Compared to what my sisters in Manchester and friends in Liverpool were paying this is an absolute steal.
Cars – Now this is nowhere near my area of expertise and more Ryans forte, but buying our cars outright for cash has definitely made things easier for us. It’s freeing to know that the cars are ours and we aren’t having to pay for them each month on finance. I know this option doesn’t suit everyone and you aren’t able to have the latest make or model of a car, but our VW Lupo saw us through 4 years, 150, 000 miles, and almost two crashes (obviously my fault) and Ryan originally bought it on an eBay auction for <£1000.
Furthermore, let’s talk about car insurance. When looking for a car be cautious of how much that car will be to insure, before purchasing. Run it through a few comparison websites to find if you can actually afford to insure it. Additionally, take the time to do the comparison, don’t just go with the first policy you find. Do you need breakdown cover or can your boyfriend come and fix the car roadside? Can you go third party or is fully comp something more suitable for you? Will it become cheaper if you get your older sister on your policy? Can you park your car in a locked garage or is it on full display parked on a main road? Play around with the options and see what works for you. For a good few years we went without breakdown cover and third party, fire and theft, not necessarily covering us from all angles but it was what we could afford and thankfully it worked for us. Finally, PAY FOR THE FULL YEAR, you can save up to £100 and more sometimes if you just buy the year outright. This can be expensive initially but the way we got around it was, by paying for it on our interest-free credit card and then paying the credit card off monthly or as and when it suited us (I.E.when our student loans came in).
Entertainment – Ryan and I have never really been big TV watchers, but since moving to North Wales, we literally didn’t have any signal to watch much TV anyway. We were never interested in upgrading to Sky TV, Virgin Media, Now TV or satellite TV. We were happy with our £4.99 a month Netflix and all the free YouTube content you could get your teeth into. Similarly, we invested in a Spotify account which we both share, so this means we don’t have to buy music or CDs we just have it readily available to us.
Other ways we manage our outgoings in regards to entertainment is we don’t really go the cinema, in fact, we haven’t even been to the cinema once this year and last year I think we went <5 times. Now it’s not that we’re boring people, we do enjoy the cinema but our local cinema is a 40-minute drive away so not exactly like you can just nip out to see something. It might sound silly but a single cinema trip can take you back almost £20 if you’re doing that multiple times a month it soon adds up.
Food – Keeping a low budget on food shopping has always been instilled in us. When we were students and were really trying to save money and live on a budget; we’d do things like buy a big joint of meat or a whole chicken and portion it up ourselves, or try to not spend more than £20 on a weekly shop. Similarly, we’ve used the usual tips and tricks such as shopping at your lower-priced food shops like Aldi and Lidl, and meal planning so that you actually eat the food that you buy. Just be sensible with where your money is going; swap two portioned chicken breasts for a kilo pack of chicken thighs, yes it may be more work for you to prepare them but you get more for your money and the flavour is so much better. Make use of when things are on offer, no way would we buy something like kiwis or lychees out of season but when they are, we’ll happily fill our basket with the lower price. Be mindful of food being reduced, packs of meat can be easily stored in your freezer until future use. Bulk buy where you can, a 5-kilo bag of rice might be a pain to bring home but it’s gonna last you the best part of 6 months!
Ryan tends to work away Monday through Friday meaning I’ll be at home alone to fend for myself. I usually cook myself bulk meals, curries, soups, what I don’t eat goes into the freezer. I’ll tend to try and not do a food shop those weeks and just live off what we have in the fridge, cupboards and freezer. I might not be making the most glamorous meals and will usually be going meat-free for a few days (which is cheaper) but that doesn’t bother me. A coconut potato curry or a whole head of broccoli soup will soon sort me out.
Furthermore, one of our favourite things to do is eat out, typically we could easily eat out 4/5 times a week. This is an area where we have specifically cracked down on and said no, saving it for special occasions only (which with a family as big as ours tends to be nearly twice a month or so anyway). Eating out and eating good food has always been one of our favourite things; some of our first dates were spent, spending the whole day in a vintage tea room. Ryan is more strict than I, even when I have been dying of a hangover, begging for Nandos Ryan would say no. He’s even said no McDonald’s when we have vouchers, he is a stronger man than I.
Ryan wanted me to specifically mention the McDonald’s coffee stickers, you collect 6 tokens and you get a free coffee. Ryan claims that it helps him to save money but secretly I think he’s been hooked in with his caffeine addiction.
Phones – We both own our phones outright and have sim only contracts. We’ve both got pretty good deals through Three; Ryan’s contract is £20 and mine is £23, we both have unlimited everything which is super handy. I suppose I’m quite lucky, we’ve both had smashed screens which Ryan will just go ahead and fix with a new screen from eBay. Even when my phone started running really slow and barely holding a charge, Ryan swapped out the battery and now my phone works a dream.
Clothes – Generally, speaking we not big fashionistas, I haven’t have had a huge wardrobe overhaul for well over a year and Ryan may buy a replacement pair of jeans every 6 months or so. I say replacement as he has to wear them to work, he can wear through them well. For myself, I will mostly just rotate through the clothes in my wardrobe, save for a special occasion where I may do a wee ASOS shop for a single item. A saying I try to live by is reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve had friends give me bin bags full of clothes they no longer wanted; same with being from a family full of girls, when one of us has a bag for the charity, we’ll let each other raid it before it’s donated. Similarly, make use of your local charity shops, one local to my sister sells every item of clothing for 99p, you can update your whole wardrobe for a tenner.
Buying second hand – Almost all our furniture we own in secondhand, except for one IKEA storage cabinet, our bed frame and mattress. Our sofa, armchairs, sideboard, unit of drawers, washing machine, TV, mirrors, ALL second hand, even lots of our kitchenware too. Some have been given to us by family/friends, others bought from charity shops, Facebook Marketplace, or Gumtree. All in perfectly acceptable, if not new condition, with plenty of life still in them. Likewise, we have used Facebook Marketplace to sell many things on, actually making money on some things we originally bought from there.
Haircuts – I’ve never overly enjoyed the hairdressers. I’ve almost always found it to be an anxiety-ridden experience, probably due to the fact I never went to the hairdressers as a child. Even as a teenager/young adult, I very rarely like what they did with my hair. I’ve only paid for two hair cuts in the past 5 years, can you believe that? I’ve had one other hair cut at the hairdressers but that was with a student hairdresser so got it for free. In between these sporadic hair cuts, Ryan has just taken an inch or two from the ends and I’ll style the front. Ryan also begrudgingly will pay for a hair cut, going rarely perhaps before a special occasion, a job interview or family wedding. Meanwhile, we’ll just use the clippers to buzz it short, 4 on top, 3/2 on the sides. I can’t even imagine how much money we’ve saved.
Going out out – Now it’s not that I don’t enjoy a night out, cause I sure do, but this is something we just don’t do that regularly, maybe once every two or three months. I guess it could be down to the fact that we live so far from our friends and family. If we do go out it generally means we’ll need to stay over at someone’s house and requires some level of planning prior therefore can be more hassle than its worth.
Days out – If we do wanna spend the day out somewhere then we’ll try to do something for free. Going to places like Chester Zoo or Alton Towers just isn’t on our agenda. These places are overpriced, and overcrowded, and just not our cup of tea.
Overtime – Currently I’m contracted to 34.5 hours a week which works out as three shifts a week. Thankfully as I work in a job that I love I will work an extra shift two or three times a month, meaning I usually get an extra couple hundred pounds on to of my normal salary.
Period care – Just over two years ago I made the switch from using tampons to using a menstrual cup. What a revelation. Not only have a really enjoyed using it as it’s so simple and effective but I feel really grateful that I’ve managed to find a way to no longer contribute to the growing problem in landfills (did you know one tampon can take up to 500 years to breakdown?). One of the other many benefits using a cup is that it has taken the financial cost of a period out of my hands for the next ten years. Given that that average box of tampons costs £3 and your buying one a month (maybe more?) and my cup cost me £6.99, in the 26 months I’ve had it, that’s a saving of £71.01, a win if you ask me.
All in all, living a very simple life has led to us being able to manage our income in a reasonable and sensible way, meaning we’ve been able to save a good portion of our income. Please know, I’m aware that each person’s income varies massively, and their spending habits are individual to them. I also appreciate we have no dependent’s, no children or no animals (well you can’t really count the fish tank or tarantula can you) to pay or be responsible for which obviously aids our situation greatly. These are just some of the things that work well for us.
I really hope you guys find this post interesting and maybe take some tips from it, whether its raiding your nearest charity shop, skipping your next hair dressers appointment or having a Netflix night in over a date to the cinema.