Money. Ouch. Yep that's all. Ouch.
I envy those people who can stretch a tenner out for a week and started saving when they were six. But it just isn't me. I can't quite manage frugal, because frugal seems so darn dull. But I am now a fully-fledged grown-up and there is just no getting round it: one cannot avoid making sensible financial choices all ones life. So there comes a point when frankly becoming sensible overnight, despite drama, death and all the other things that are sent to try us, is simply not something we can afford to dither about it.
And so Ste and I decided to get sensible.
It wasn't pretty. There was much argument about what sensible looks like and it turns out we have vastly different opinions about what constitutes essential, but we are mostly on the same page when it comes to how we want our future to look and we are both committed (after a season of dilly-dallying, job loss, moving house and worry) to securing that future for ourselves and our boys.
Six months later we are in a much, much better place. Six months later we are taking money very seriously indeed (beyond the wine bill!) and though it takes more commitment and daily attention to detail than I had visualized. month on month our situation is improving.
We began by learning about money. We read and read and read. (My favorite - Kate Northrup's Money: A Love Story and Ste's -Tony Robbin's Money: Master the Game). Ste took out a subscription to The Investors Chronicle and did a crash course in stocks and shares and is now having a fine old time cautiously dabbling with his pension pot, and I took a long, hard look at the potential of BrocanteHome and had terribly grown-up conversations with accountants and book-keepers and bank managers.
Because we are grown-ups. And this isn't about managing our pocket money but about making sure we can eat when we are stoop-backed and wrinkly. Because money is energy and it shouldn't be the thing standing between us and true contentment.
The other five things we did...
We Became Slaves to YNAB.
I know. You have heard me rave about YNAB before. And that is because it is FABULOUS. I have been using it on and off for a few years now, but never quite with the same commitment that Ste and I are now using it. We check in daily, have created a month's spending grace (through sheer hard work!), have pots in which to save for everything from a holiday to our wedding, update the app's on our phone whenever we buy anything at all, and reconcile all bank accounts each and every evening so we don't miss a thing...
We Agreed to Share Everything (Almost).
This is I'm sure the cause of much debate at the beginning of the financial relationship of every new (middle-aged!) couple. Whether to have joint accounts or maintain our independence. In the end we decided to have a bit of both. Because we like to have our cake and eat it. A joint account was necessary to make YNAB work smoothly and to be able to track exactly what this life of ours costs, but we both saw the necessity to have our own money too. The kind that doesn't need to be explained, but is also available should it be needed for the greater good.
We Joined The Utility Warehouse.
I wasn't happy about this at first. I was in fact deeply skeptical about hanging all our hats on the one hatstand, but The Utility Warehouse has simplified EVERYTHING to such a degree that I cannot help but rave about it. Not only have we saved significant money by having phone, broadband, gas and electricity on one bill, we have now added our mobile phone contracts and home insurance to the same bill and the joy of monitoring only ONE BILL is unsurpassed. Not to mention the free light-bulbs throughout the house, the cashback card, the Gourmet Society Card and much more besides.
Sometimes somethings really are so good, they are true.
We Made Big Lists
This is something Ste and I have done almost since we met: once monthly we sit down with our BIG LIST and focus on exactly what we want out of life. We add anything and everything from a new car to finding a gardener and then we close our pink book and put it away until the next month. And here's the thing: somehow we manifest our little dreams.
This has been astonishing to both of us. But each month as we tick through the things we have created together as a couple we kind of sit and stare at each other in amazement. It is I suppose the Law of Attraction at work, but even if you don't believe in matters of an airy-fairy nature, making a Big List helps you focus as a couple on what you both want out of this life.
And We Stopped Playing Small.
If you have experienced financial trauma of any kind you will know that thereafter there is the potential to play it safe for always thereafter. To imagine that somehow you do not deserve better. That better is scary so better the devil you know and all that jazz, right?
But Ste and I have been playing small all our lives and it was time to swap up the goldfish bowl. To believe that we could be more, do more and have more. To believe in ourselves and to stop harboring the frankly ludicrous notion that a stint in debtors jail was just around the corner if we so much as dared to dream...
So we gave each other a good talking to. We made plans. We stopped leaving money to chance and good fortune and decided to believe that we too, were finally grown-up enough to create the life we want.
And the upshot of all this? Today we are picking up a new, straight off the forecourt, car. A shiny, white object of loveliness that was one of the first things we wrote on our Big List when we were both chugging around in sheds on wheels. We dreamed it up and we made it happen.
I am so proud of us.
Fit to burst with excitement in fact. Mostly because this new car has got massaging seats and frankly I may just spend the rest of my days just driving around the vicinity for the sheer pleasure of it...