Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Saving as a Fine Art

This is a difficult topic for me. First of all, I don't like money. I don't like the system it created, I don't like the fact that people would do anything to get it: stepping over any principle, killing, starving others. I don't like it. I deeply despise it.
In fact, I believe one day we (or, more likely, our children and grandchildren) will live in a world where money is regarded for what it is: a waste of paper.
I believe a society based on resources instead of money would work way better, and that's why I support The Venus Project.

In the meantime, we have to do with what we have. And make sure we are not wasting, not wanting what we don't need; reducing, reusing and recycling as much as we can.

Moreover, I want to make sure I am not wasting my time in the office just to buy things I don't need or just to pay the bills.
That's not our purpose in life. Our lives should be lived to their fullest potential, we must make room for love, laughter, hobbies and passions.

However, and this is one big "however", I find myself in the position of not yet being able to leave my full time job to be a home maker. I would just love to stay home, raise my children, sew, cook, volunteer and have time to write and read.

This is why saving is important. Saving means we'll be able to pay off our mortgage sooner that the (scary!!!) 35 years we signed up for and retire to live somewhere sunnier and brighter when the children will not be children anymore. At least, this is the big plan.

I know life is long and mysterious, and no plans can really be made, but I feel I have to do my best to try and make it easier for us all in the years to come. Even if one of us (myself or my husband) dies tomorrow, my children will still have a roof on their heads and food on the table. And that's another thing that makes me sleep well at night.

Now, back to saving, which is where I had started my post.

Before I buy something, I ask myself a few simple questions: Can I find it cheaper? Can I find it second hand? Can I do without? Do I really like it?

Can I Find It Cheaper?

In the last few days I have been pondering and caressing the idea of making a quilt out of a bunch of old jeans pairs I have stored from many closet spring cleanings. A friend of mine also gave me a bag of old jeans because she knows I am always looking for fabric.
Searching online for quilting tutorials, I found a very good website with a great tutorial for beginners, which seemed written just for me.
Awesome! But hey, I don't have the cutter... nor the mat... I thought: I'll go get the cutter and the mat in the craft shop close to my office straight after work!
Wow, the prices put me off. What's the point in paying above 20 Euro for the Cutter and above 15 Euro for the mat? I want to make the quilt from old jeans, originally purchased in second hand shops and given to me by a friend... It is my first try at quilting, the quilt itself will probably look like crap, if I have to spend over 35 Euro just to begin???
No! In the evening I went on eBay, found the cutter and the mat and I spent all together under 10 Euro. They are probably not the best quality tools, but, seriously, how many quilts am I going to make in the next few years? 
So, with some patience, on the 4th of March my cutter and mat will be here, and I can then start my quilt. I will have to wait, I know, but I'm busy in the garden now after work, so I'm not pressed for time. And those extra 25 Euro are still in my pocket :)

Can I Find It Second Hand?

A funny story here. A couple of years back, some friends were complaining Christmas is expensive. No surprise there, they complain all the time they have no money. 
They complain children are expensive, food is expensive, clothes are expensive... That's an awful lot of complaining. 
We are talking about a couple where both work full time, with 2 young kids.
We all know how expensive childcare is, but that is something we should not be complaining about. Before you have children you know you are going to spend money in childcare, and a fair amount that is.
I raised my first son exclusively with second hand clothes. I had to buy them in the charity shop back then, because I had no friends that could give me their kids clothes. We were new in Ireland, no family close by, no close friends, it was different.
My son was always well clothed and warm. Saving on clothes meant I could afford the best shoes for him when he started taking his first step, and those are way more important than clothes.
My daughter too, she always wears second hand clothes, however now I'm lucky to have this friend who has two older girls and passes on to me everything they outgrow. That's even cheaper. Again, I can get her good shoes and boots because I don't spend anything on clothes.
Sometimes I feel bad, I feel like I never buy anything for her, so I'll get her a hat or something she will like, like a tiny handbag.
So, for me, second hand is always the first choice. For myself and my husband too. I bought all his winter jackets second hand, otherwise they are really expensive. All my clothes are second hand and all my shoes are second hand, except my runners, purchased on sale because I wanted a particular kind and could not find them in good enough condition in the charity shops.

Can I do Without?
The answer, most of the times, is YES. Look around yourself, you more than likely already have everything you need. Someone once said, a woman never has enough shoes. I don't agree. Of course we like shoes, we like handbags and nice clothes. But really... Do I really NEED that extra pair of blue jeans? Probably not. Do I really, really NEED another set of plates for the kitchen. No, I don't.
If I put aside the want, I can save money to get something I really need, or something that would make my life easier. Like a steam mop. Which I recently purchased on sale. I have done without so far, I could keep it that way. However, I have not purchased useless clutter so I have room for the steam mop and money to invest in a model that better responds to what I want.
Why did I get the steam mop? Because it's great, it also has a part that detaches so it can be used as a handheld steam cleaner. It means less and less chemicals in the house as it eliminates the need for the floor cleaner. It also means I don't need to boil the water to mop the floor anymore. I plug it in and the steam is ready in a few minutes. The plan is to eliminate all carpets from the house, so that is going to be very handy upstairs as well in the coming years.

Do I really like it?

When I want to indulge in something I might fancy to have, then the hardest of questions comes in... Do I really like it? I might. In fact, if it catches my eye, I kind of like it. Is it worth throwing out something else to make room for it? Probably not.
Will I like it once I get home? If the answer is not a definite YES, then I don't buy it.

The habit of questioning myself before I put my hand in the pocket to reach for my hard earned money has saved me a lot so far. 
I have to provide for two young children and they are learning themselves that a present doesn't always come in a box. Sometimes Santa Claus will get things second hand just to make sure they are tried and tested ;)
The fact that we don't watch tv plays a huge part in the saving, not just because we have one bill less to pay each month, but because we don't get to see advertisement. The ads are written to make you want things, and rightly so, but I'm happy to avoid that.

All in all, we are doing fairly well, there is no stress in our house since we both work and do without a lot of silly things we don't really need. We are not pressed by fashion, trends and the likes. We live simply, we enjoy just being together without the need to go out and spend money on entertainment.
We live altogether, a very fulfilling life. We are always busy and try to involve the children in everything we do inside the house.

We tend to try and fix something ourselves before we hire someone to do it.

What we save by fixing things ourselves we can spend on weekends away and holidays.

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