I’ve had the fortune of being able to move around, a lot. I moved from one side of my country to another, across the pond, over to the Middle East, back across the pond, and then back to continental Europe. My husband and I have recently relocated to the U.K. from undisclosed continental European country and he is working in “The City.” *1 I work in a smaller, less central location outside of “The City.” Between my job and “The City” is a part of a giant commuter belt known as the U.K.’s south-east. It is basically the U.K.’s version of New Jersey, but with cute country gastro-pubs, Land Rovers, and people in Barbour Puff Vests and Wellies. We also have shitty overpriced trains and some of the highest income inequality in the U.K.. I will come back to the topic of shitty trains and income inequality in later posts.
Two things you need to know about us: Firstly, we are totally in debt — up to our eyebrows in debt, mostly but not only, in education related debt i.e. “student loans” but we are finally both working after being a single-earning income household for years.*2 Secondly, we don’t know whether we want to be city mice or country mice. And truth be told, we also don’t know which country we want to be mice in, so that is a consideration at play as well. We also don’t have all those things one is supposed to have by our age (pushing 40) like retirement savings, down payments (or a house — we rent), nor three (six) month emergency cash fund. Neither of us have permanent jobs yet. We also have parents that are financially not well off and who live on separate continents no less than plus 12 hour flights away from one another. We eloped, had a weekend Easyjet honeymoon to Sardina, and don’t spend money on cable television. But we are white, or passably white in my husband’s case, english speaking, and highly educated. So that helps. A lot. A LOT.
I am the household bookkeeper and I like to think of myself as well equipped when it comes to a spreadsheet and a calculator. We already for the last 6 months kept track of our weekly and monthly spending using print out copies of Kakebo pages — or Japanese homemakers’ budget books. I recently read the book Frugalwoods and there, the author said that at some point, her and her husband were saving between 50 and 80 percent of their income.
Then I started shouting superlatives …
Then I began to cry …
Then I thought the book was a scam … (and perhaps while not a scam, their household income may well be very very high)
Then I told all my friends to read it …
Once I calmed down, I did what every hyper-critical, over-researched, procrastinating, A-type personality with a post-graduate degree does: I took it on as a personal challenge. They didn’t have debt but we did, so it would be different. They also didn’t have the shitty trains or the 1 to 1.5 hour commute into or from “The City”. I was going to live frugally too, but in a country that drives on the wrong side of the road and just elected itself from the largest common market in the neighbourhood.*3 And we would decide once and for all whether to be country mice or city mice. And maybe we would stay here and wade through this Brexit mess just as if it was newly spring (which it is) and get our Wellies muddy with our neighbours (which we did) or else we move back to the continent to said undisclosed country where the savings rates are notoriously high and austerity is a so much a cultural value that the Financial Times even says so.*4 But we would probably have to stop eating take out. And I might have to fire the housecleaner.
And then I started to cry again …
Welcome to our journey. I hope we don’t fail. And I hope that you’re entertained and inspired along the way.
- For those of you that don’t know, “The City” refers to London unless you live in Manchester.
- We all know that thick eyebrows are back in style so think of us as having thick eyebrow debt.
- Monthly Economic Commentary, Office for National Statistics.
- See the article Why are Germans so Obsessed with Saving money? (Paywall, Financial Times).