In this week’s On the Money interview, I talk to Faith from Much More With Less.
On the Money: Conversations with money bloggers
What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?
My earliest memory of money is intense frustration, when my pocket money went up from 10p to 20p a week. Every week we stocked up on penny sweets, and I had grand plans about stretching to a Sherbet Dib Dab when my pocket money rose to previously unknown heights. Then my Dad said I could still only spend 10p on sweets, and had to save the rest! Shocker. I have stuck to a savings habit though.
Have you ever felt out of control with your money?
No. I’ve always been boringly sensible with my money, something my mother drilled into me. Mind you, I didn’t enjoy seeing my bank balance go down when freelance work dried up, my flat mate moved out, and the bills and mortgage payments were mounting up. I ended up temping to make ends meet.
What was your worst money decision?
My first job after university had a big salary, a lot of travel and longer hours. I did save money and start a pension, but I also spent a lot with nothing left to show for it, on things like takeaways, clothes in airports or Ocado deliveries. If I had my time over again, I’d make different decisions.
What was your best money decision?
Buying my first flat in 1999. At the time, I worried I was too late to benefit from property prices that had risen sharply since 1995. Well, I lived in London, so it turned out I wasn’t too late! All the effort scraping together a deposit and covering the mortgage really paid off. Without buying that first flat, we’d never be living in a home we love today.
What is your best tip for saving money at home?
Go through all your direct debits. Cancel anything you don’t need or use any more, then aim to find better deals on everything else. Cutting the cost of bills like your gas, electricity, mortgage, mobile, broadband, landline, car insurance, breakdown cover, household insurance and life insurance can save loads without affecting your lifestyle in the least.
What is your best tip for saving money out and about?
Take your own food and drink. Carting around refillable water bottles, packed lunches and snacks for the kids has saved us thousands of pounds over the years.
What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?
Start investing in the stock market sooner, even if you can only salt away £25 to £50 a month.
What was your biggest ever bargain?
With the benefit of hindsight, my first flat was a bargain. Otherwise, a Folio Society set of Mapp & Lucia books for a fiver from a charity shop. I love the books, love the bindings and illustrations, and would never have spent the £100 odd they seem to be selling for. Our £50 sofa from a charity shop was a good buy too.
What was your most recent purchase?
Couple of school PE T shirts for my children. It’s all glamour round here.
Do you stick to a monthly budget?
No. Is that heresy for a money blogger? I keep a spending diary and check our bank balances regularly. This means I have a good sense if there’s more money going out than normal so we can rein it in a bit.
Fundamentally, we avoid spending wherever possible, only buy stuff we genuinely need and aim to get good value when we do buy anything. We keep a cushion of cash in our current account, to avoid any risk of going overdrawn.
Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share?
I am incredibly grateful that we’re already mortgage-free, after selling up in London and moving to a less expensive house in Suffolk. Having a lower cost of living means I can work part-time from home, as a freelance personal finance journalist and money blogger, and be around for the children. My husband has been able to return to working for the charity sector. Long term, we’re salting money away in ISAs and pensions for a more comfortable retirement. The state pension is low, and I don’t fancy being forced to choose between heating and eating.
If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Fab family holiday and a fancy new kitchen! Then support some causes close to our hearts and invest the rest.
Faith Archer is an award-winning personal finance journalist, who also blogs at Much More With Less about moving to the country, living on less and making the most of it. You can also find Faith on her new column at Woman & Home magazine!