Monthly Archives: August 2016

Five Year Plans, Smugness and Probably The Best Coffee In Devon

Well, last post I was going on about our thing we like to call Austerity Month. Hopefully I explained it adequately and now I’ll attempt to answer the slightly deeper question of why. Why on earth would we voluntarily put ourselves through a month of no-added-chocolate, instant coffee and take away deprivation??

To start with, I’ll set the scene. My husband and I have been married for seven years and we have two children under four. We met in our first term of Uni (awww) and got married after graduation. I have always been the saver (not saviour….more like cheapskate) of our relationship. I had a serious job to sort out Mr. B. and his spending habits when we first met but he was a fast learner. He even got a job in our second year so he could afford to take me out (awwww again). Just realised that made me sound a bit tight fisted and controlling but I wasn’t that bad honest….just don’t ask Mr. B. about it….! Moving swiftly on, once married we both worked and started to set out rough five year plans and things to achieve together. For example:

  • Year 1. Get better jobs.
  • Year 2. Get a better flat (ie: not on one of the top 50 most dangerous roads in Britain….)
  • Year 3. Graduate (I was doing an MA)
  • Year 4. Find Dream Jobs
  • Year 5. Have first baby)
  • 2ish Years Later. Have second baby.

It was quite a loose guideline really and we felt that as long as we were ending each year in a better financial position than we began it, we would be working towards a better future and more stable lifestyle for our little family-to-be. Again I seem to be making us out as money grabbing nasties but it’s really only because of the angle I’m taking here. Trying to set the scene for a financially orientated post means talking about money I’m afraid. To put it in context, Year 1 of the plan above said ‘get better jobs’ because I was working 16 hours at Mothercare and he was temping (at a concrete factory. The dust was horrendous….the muscles less so 😉 ….). We needed better jobs. Ending the year with more money than we started was easy since we basically started at just above broke. Anyway, we ignored the last couple of years and baby no.1 came a year early and I never got round to finding that ‘Dream Job’ (or did I?….more on that later) as baby no.2 followed two years and ten days later (very handy  for parties).

Now you’re caught up, us in the present day is me at home with the kiddies and him working in London. We certainly conform to gender stereotypes in this house.

So why does this all matter? Well basically we are a one income family living in the South East and were understandably struggling to save money. Up until April this year it was only a niggling in the back of my naturally tight fisted mind. With the birth of our second baby last year, we had come to the end of our vague plans made in the early years of our marriage and had, as far as I was concerned, made it. I had always wanted to be a stay at home mum so I was extremely happy to be doing just that. Essentially I am doing my Dream Job – and I’m only 28 *cough* smug *cough* Who said that? Fair tbh……

Meanwhile my poor husband slogs away in London. But isn’t that what he wanted to do? Hasn’t he ‘made it’? Well sort of. He has said that what he wants to do is to make sure I am doing what I want to do. Awww he’s the best, isn’t he? I am so lucky. No. Complete boll..sorry, rubbish. Yes he is in a position to support our family, but he’s never here. I don’t see him, the kids don’t see him and he hates that (as do we obviously).

The happiness (smugness) I have to be able to be at home has always been stained by the knowledge that he is not as happy as I am. The balance is not right. Ying is feeling hung over but Yang only had one drink and is not letting Ying have a lie in. It’s just not fair. This has been hovering about subconsciously for a while now. I suggested at some point that we should sack it all in and run away to the woods. Live in a caravan. We’d be living like raggle taggle gypsies but we’d all be together and, therefore, happy. The idea was dismissed as ridiculous (can’t think why) but it got us thinking.

April 2016. Specifically; St Georges Day

The month of change. The catalyst? Our friends wedding. In magical Exeter, our University City and where it all began. Uni friends (both ex housemates of ours) getting married in the University chapel no less. All our friends there. It was fan-bloody-tastic. We can even claim credit for the whole thing since they first got together at our wedding seven years ago. It was beautiful.

Ahem. Sorry got carried away. Essentially we had a wonderful long weekend and even brought a baby sitter so we got to show our cute kids off at the wedding (the oldest was a flower girl), and still got to party into the night like we were 20 again and it was a thursday Arena night….sigh. We were staying in a lovely holiday cottage on a pig farm, which made what we deemed to be ‘probably the best coffee in Devon’. (This is where we stayed. Can’t recommend it highly enough as a family friendly destination. Brilliant for children. And hungover adults, did I mention the coffee?)

Our feathery neighbours at the cottage.

Our feathery neighbours at the cottage.

ANYWAY. The point is that once on the way home again, full to the brim with excellent coffee (we enthused about it so much they gave us both a free coffee for the road. Probably just to shut us up.), we had a mini epiphany/quarterly life crises. We were chatting about how we’d always liked the idea of running a bed and breakfast sort of set up. This is a conversation we’d had on and off since the early days of our relationship, how we would have a farm with a b&b, numerous different species of farm animals, our kids running wild through the fields… know the picture. Sparked by the smouldering discontent lying dormant in our subconsciousness, we realised that the subject keeps coming up but always prefixed by the phrase ‘one day’. Well that ‘one day’ would never happen if all we did was daydream about it on the way home from holidays. Why shouldn’t we actually make ‘one day’ a reality? It would be much better to have something like that on the five year plan than what we now realised was currently there:

  • Year 1. Work to survive and keep paying mortgage
  • Year 2. Work to survive and keep paying mortgage
  • Year 3. Work to survive and keep paying mortgage. 2x kids at school – I’ll get a job
  • Year 4. Work to survive and keep paying mortgage
  • Year 5. Buy a bigger house. Work to survive and keep paying mortgage.

All in all a bit dull.

So, the caffeine fuelled conclusion? To borrow from our friends at Nike: ‘Just Do It’.

My Really Useful Tip On How To Save Money This Summer. (or Why I Never Leave The House Anymore)

Step 1: Have kids. Specifically; toddlers.

I no longer shower. Yes I know, that’s a bit gross. It’s also a slight exaggeration. I do shower, just not every day, or even every other day. In fact, I never know when my next shower will be. This is because I have a three-year-old and an 18-month-old who are dependant on me for their very survival. If I am daring enough to disappear into the bathroom for some longed for ablutions they will punish me in some of the worst ways they are capable of. Namely by climbing on things (read: tables) and subsequently falling off (the 18mth old), or by deciding that this is the perfect time for some furniture rearranging and building sky-high cushion towers for Princess and the pea beds  (3 yr old). The smaller one then tries to scale said tower and falls off. If I think I’m being smart and responsible and try to have a shower after bedtime, when both trouble makers are sleeping, there is a high probability that the smallest one will wake up and do his utmost to shout the house down, waking his sister in the process.

shower-653671_640 I wish…..

Last time I was foolish enough to attempt a daytime shower with both little people up, I experienced a Mrs. Large type incident whereby the bathroom door was barged open and in came the smallest, followed by the other one. The smallest merrily upended the basket of bath toys into the tub and the other one declared she wanted to get in and started stripping off her princess dress. All the while I was frantically trying to execute an emergency leg shave without slicing any important arteries. (If you aren’t familiar with the fantastic Large family series by Jill Murphy and are wondering what the heck I’m on about then here they are. Pretty good for light-hearted bedtime reading even if you don’t have kids…) Suffice to say dry shampoo has become one of my closest friends. In fact, I never knew it existed until I had kids.

This all equates to me having fewer than the recommended daily amount of showers (yes that’s a thing) and therefore we must be saving a bundle on water bills. At least that’s the silver lining I ascribe to this particular parenting cloud. As it’s the summer holidays the water saving rate has been doubled. If I decide that I’m just too worn out for the three-minute ninja quick shower I would normally have before going to bed, I can get away with it by not leaving the house the next day. Hurrah for six weeks of no pre school runs or mum and toddler groups!

The reason for sharing my rather unsanitary habit is that it is a brilliant bonus in Austerity Month. What on earth is Austerity Month? I hear you ask. No, it’s not some sort of little-known government initiative to help cut the deficit. It is in fact something that my husband and I are trialling this August with the goal of saving 50% of our monthly income.

Why? Fair question but it’s a long (ish) answer. How then? That’s easier, I’ll answer that first.

So how do we plan to save half of this month’s income? *drum roll please*……by not spending money! Obvs. Also obvious is that it’s easier said than done. Mr. Blackberry and I have embarked on a month-long trial to see if we can cut out all nonessential expenditure after the monthly bills (mortgage, utilities, council tax, internet, phones etc) have been paid. Essentials are classed as the weekly food shop, petrol and….that’s about it. I’m permitted to do top ups of milk and bread throughout the week as we seem to go through a whole dairy herds worth of milk in no time along with a similar amount of bread. Mr. B. takes lunch to work and has gallantly stopped out of office coffees, snacks and even, brace yourselves, beer….!!! We have also streamlined our weekly supermarket shop and I have made an enormous personal sacrifice and now go to ASDA *shudders* instead of Sainsbury’s to get it. All with the aim of saving as much as possible at the end of the month.

Ok, saving is always good, but why this particular month? and why do it at all since shopping at ASDA seems to be an issue and your poor husband can’t drink beer? Good questions, both of them. However, they involve a slightly more convoluted answer and there is the need to delve into the ins and outs of goal-oriented motivation and the murky depths of our family psyche….

Or at least have a dabble in the shallow end with a bit of background info to set the scene – All stuff for the next post I think. Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking; rest assured I’ll shower before then….Hopefully!