#JanuaryJoy: Plan your savings

Sounds pretty boring hey? Money. I don’t think we talk about it enough, with typical British reserve but aside from all the obvious statements about money not buying happiness, if you have a good enough handle on your finances, you can really start to make things happen and stop feeling trapped by your circumstances. Maybe you are postponing having a baby because you are worried about poor maternity pay or financial stability. Maybe you are desperate to move but have no idea how to get the required deposit, or maybe you have debts – don’t we all! I’m no financial advisor (but I do have a great one if anybody is interested and wants a recommendation – just email me,) but I thought I’d share a bit of a personal financial story that might help some of you rethink your ideas and start working towards your financial goals this year.


Image via The Everygirl

As most of you will know, we moved at the end of last year and it’s some of the comments I received around that time via social media and on the blog that made me want to write this post. There were a few grumblings about how ‘lucky’ I was to live in the north, implying how ‘cheap’ my house must have been in comparison to the south. Whatever your income or location, it’s never easy to save a lot. It’s all relative, including your expectations of what you will need to move (I’m using my move as an example here but this can be applied to any financial situation.) Basically everyone is different.

So, how did we get moving? I’ll say first that for about 4 years I had wanted to move. We bought our terraced house which had 2 bedrooms and box room we used as a study in 2006, just before the peak and then crash of the property market. Our intention given the state of the market then was to move upwards in 3 years, but it soon became clear that with the cost of moving, (stamp duty, fees, etc) and the less buoyant market, that that would be foolish. One thing after another trapped us in that house, lack of funds, eventually our employment circumstances (we each in turn became self-employed limiting our mortgage options,) but as we realised we wouldn’t be buying an intermediate home, the deposit we needed became the big issue. How on earth do you save such a big deposit?

We managed to come up with just short of a 20% deposit in the end. About 30% of that was equity in our house – we had barely any equity as we had a huge LTV mortgage and were paying interest only – a set up that suited us at the time of purchase then we stuck with later as we couldn’t get competitive remortgage deals due to our low equity. Instead we decided to stick what would have been a mortgage overpayment in the bank and that became our savings. The rest was all savings cobbled together over a 18-24month period.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, well it’s all very well if you earn a lot… and that is true – if you have more you can save more, but as I said before it is all relative. We did not save more. And I did not see how we could cut a single outgoing, but bit by bit we managed it. We started with all the usual things like changing over our energy and internet providers to get better deals but clearly that wasn’t going to make much headway. We needed to make big drastic changes. We decided to try and live on one salary and bank the other. When we dd the maths it didn’t work at all. We tentatively transferred all my personal direct debits (I have significant professional outgoings too for insurance and professional memberships etc which I let in my own account for tax purposes) to Petes accounts. And every month we went into our overdraft, but little by little we started to live within our means. I bought (a lot) less clothes, we planned cheaper holidays, we ate out less. Note that I’m saying ‘less’, because if we had cut out all fun, I never would have stuck with it. Altogether it made me feel more accountable, to Pete and our future together. Finally we made a big change and sold Petes car – his baby, bought to celebrate his first proper job out of training. It was costing a lot to run and maintain and so in a big sacrifice he swapped it for a 14 year old £500 banger. (Side note: it breaks down nearly every day on his way to work, he pushes it to the side of the road, waits 5 minutes and goes again, but we’re sticking with it!)

We’ve got so good at sticking within the budget that now, with a bigger mortgage and outgoings, we’re still managing it. That’s not meant to sound smug, but as people who (I’m not proud to say) spent the vast majority of our expendable income rather than saving it, we have made massive changes and as a result changed our life in a way that thought was impossible in the near future. We even recommended it to our friends who were saving for their wedding and really stuck for how to save – they too couldn’t see how it was possible but are now doing it and converted.

I know this plan won’t be for everyone, but I’m really curious as to how you guys plans and save for the future. I’d love to hear how you planned and budgeted for a move or other big financial change, perhaps a career break or change, or adjusting to maternity leave. Please do leave a comment.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy – Make a Budget or Savings plan.


Image via Who What Wear

When I was growing up one of my abiding memories is of my mum checking off receipts against a pile of bank statements. Aways a big list maker, every penny in her bank account was accounted for as it went out and double checked. I always thought it was funny but joking aside, my approach to money couldn’t have been more different to my Mum’s. A child of the credit years I sailed through uni living in overdrafts and student loans, which might as well have been monopoly money. When I finally graduated aged 24 and started work I was incredibly fortunate to have a well paid job and progress through the ranks that saw my salary rise. It wasn’t without hard work of course, but the old adage work hard, play hard could well have been written about junior doctors. Of course there were times that I made budgets, but it was always more of a retrospective activity and an eye opener as to how much I was spending.

However, there have been periods in my life where I have saved, and saved hard, when we bought our house and the most notable being prior to our wedding. At the time we decided we wanted to save a certain amount, worked out how much that was and divided it month by month between the two of us. We managed it but fell back into bad habits after the enforced saving pre-wedding and a few months of treating ourselves turned into years.

Back in July, I wrote the post Dutch no More, where I shared Pete and my financial plans to go fully ‘joint’ in the banking department to try and save money towards our next move. There were 65 comments from those of you reading sharing your own financial arrangements and a few of you asked for a future update on how it went for us. 6 months on I thought it was time to recap.

When we started out, I don’t mind admitting was worried. I was worried we wouldn’t have enough in one account to cover both of our outgoings and our new financially savvy life would be austere and devoid of fun. I got my joint account card and didn’t want to use it. I suddenly felt so much more responsible for my money and accountable for where it had gone. In reality Pete doesn’t tell me what I can or can’t spend and when I have come home with shopping bags thankfully he’s good humoured about it. Those shopping bags are definitely fewer and farther between however. Everything I spend I think twice about and fripperies I might have splashed some extra cash on often go unpurchased. I do think this is in part because of the mental investment I have made in what we’re trying to do, how much I want the next house we’re saving for. The biggest adjustment has been remebering that his account (which we now live off) is not ‘his’ money, but ‘ours’, no more than the money that earn and save is ‘mine’. I joke about shopping bags but Pete reminds me that where I may spend more on clothes, his car costs a lot more than mine to run and maintain, so it all balances out.

It has been surprisingly easy to get used to shake off that feeling of spending somebody else’s money and the most rewarding thing has been that talking about money, previously something we took care of individually, has become a part of our relationship. It’s another element to the best feeling that marriage brings. That feeling that you’re in it together and we’re working towards our future together. And I’m pleased to report our bank balance has never looked healthier so it’s working too. More than anything I’m glad we did this before we had a family. I now have the confidence to know we can manage without my salary and it will be one less adjustment to make if and when the time comes.

Now it’s your turn readers. Did my post 6 months ago inspire you to change anything about your finances or are you, like we are, saving for something inspiring?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS. I have concentrated on saving here as that is most relevant to me at the moment but if you’re thinking of making a budget definitely head over and read this brilliant article by Sarah on Any Other Woman.

Thrifty Thursdays – An introduction

Hi everyone!

After Rebecca’s big announcement yesterday about the supremely exciting and gorgeously geometric Dream. Find. Do., I have a wee bit of news to report too.  Namely, that we will be unveiling a few new types of post here on Florence Finds over the coming weeks, and one of them will my baby…

Thrifty Thursdays.

See, much as I absolutely ADORE this blog, and I boy, do I hanker after pretty much everything Rebecca features be it for her home or her wardrobe, a lot of the content is, shall we say, a bit more aspirational than available for me.  At C-S towers we’re on something of an austerity drive, which has been intensified by me not having had regular income over the last few months. Pottering around behind the scenes of Florence Finds can sometimes make me feel like I’ve got my nose pressed up against the glass of a beautiful store that I’m afraid to go into, and that’s a bit silly, because it’s definitely not the vibe we’re aiming to create here.  I know that a few of you are in the same boat, too, be it saving for house deposits, planning weddings or simply trying to put pennies away for a rainy day, not all of us have a lot of cash to splash.  On the other hand, when you are trying to live frugally, it’s really frustrating not to be able to indulge yourself from time to time, or to feel like you’re depriving yourself in every area of your life and for the love of Mike can’t you just have one new thing to wear on a night out.  Which is where Thrifty Thursdays comes in.


Image credit: Hennie Haworth

Once a fortnight I’ll be featuring DIYs, craft ideas, bargain cosmetics, recipes and more all of which can be done on little or no budget.  We’ll be looking at the usual Florence Finds areas of interest, like fashion, travel and interiors but from a slightly different, thrifty viewpoint.  I’ll be doing my best to round up lower pricepoint alternatives to Rebecca’s Fash Flash and what to wear posts and it will also be a place for us to share any discount offers or deals that come our way, and of course we hope you guys will send us submissions with your hints for living a fabulous life without breaking the bank! (Fire away to hello@florencefinds.com)

What’s your best tip for brilliance on a budget?

Love, Gemma C-S

Getting Pretty on the Cheap

This afternoon you’re in for a treat readers. Kimberly is back and with a bang. Her home was a huge hit when it was featured on FF a while back but now you get the real scoop, how she got it that way and without splashing too much cash. Thanks Kimberley!

Why hello gorgeous Florence Finders! I’m Kimberly from Swoon Worthy and I’m more than thrilled that Rebecca has asked me to fill in whilst she’s off on her travels. I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with you lovely lot in the past when Rebecca shared my home in progress a few months ago and I’m back again to share with you one of my most favourite topics: how to make your home gorgeous without spending bucketloads of cash.

It’s easy to think that in order to have a beautiful home, you have to have loads of money to throw at it. But who wants to spend more money than you have to? Why not save that cash for globe trotting, pretty shoes and going out with your mates? (See, when I put it like that, it sounds so much more useful, doesn’t it?)

In the last 2 years of owning our home, we have stretched every last penny out of getting this place up to scratch (and still going). We have bargained, searched, learned loads of new skills and made bargain hunting into an art form. So I’m here to share with you my Top Tips for Getting Pretty On the Cheap. Let’s get started, shall we?

eBay’s “Saved Search” is Your New BFF

This is by far my top tip. Thrift shops around my way aren’t too great although you can of course find bargains if you persevere. Personally, I like to shop from the comfort of my own pyjamas and home, and the beauty of both the eBay website and the eBay mobile app is that I can do it anywhere. Learn what you are searching for and then don’t assume that everyone knows how to list items properly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen things listed as ‘Shabby Chic’ that weren’t even REMOTELY in that genre. Consider searching common misspellings as well – so if you are looking for a chest of drawers, be sure to search ‘Chest of Draws’ as well!

Now, eBay has a little feature called ‘Saved Searches’ so if there’s something in particular that you are looking for, set one up. It will email you every day that there are new items listed that meet your criteria. I always have about 4 or 5 big ticket items that I’m looking for at any one time so it’s much quicker and more efficient to have eBay do the work for you and you’ll learn not only how often these items come up but also how much the going cost is.


I scored the vintage coffee table and white cowhide rug using Saved Searches and saved 50% on the cost of the rug (it was new) and only paid £30 for the coffee table.

For furniture, be sure to set your search results so that it only shows you items that you can reasonably drive to to pick up. If you know you won’t drive from Portsmouth to Leeds to pick up a tulip table, there’s no point in the search results bringing these ones up. Create your search specifically to your needs. At a bare minimum, be sure to enter Location (25 miles to my postcode works for me but you can go as near as 5 or 10 miles away) and the maximum price you are willing to pay. No point in the search bringing back items far above your budget and you’ll be less tempted to spend more than you intended.

Understand the Power of Paint

You’ll never feel more immediate gratification than painting a room. The impact a tin of paint can make is far greater than any cost to you. Bear in mind one thing however… cheap paints are a false economy. Spring for good quality paints and you can finish a room in two coats. Avoid the single coat stuff, it’s usually very thick and gloopy and it just doesn’t have the coverage nor does it go as far as the normal stuff. I tend to use Dulux the most often – it’s not as cheap as some of the own-brand paints and not as expensive as some of the higher end ranges but it gives brilliant coverage and Dulux will colour match to anything at all. The range of existing colours is truly never-ending.

The bathroom went from boring white to peacock blue – it’s saved me a bundle because I originally wanted to rip the whole thing out but this has bought me time to save before I look at a complete remodel. The full ‘makeover’ cost around £50 including the new hooks.

Learn How to Wield a Spray Paint Can

Spray painting is the perfect way to enliven any older piece or give something a new lease on life. I use it for any small projects, especially on those where I don’t want to see any brush strokes. Pretty much anything can be spray painted although bear in mind you may need a primer coat for things like plastics or anything with a glossy finish. In terms of technique, stand about 20cm back from your object and using steady strokes, move spray back and forth across the object, never resting it on any one place. A single thin coat is MUCH better than a single heavy one (think drips) so let it dry between coats and try at least one or two for even coverage. My go to spray paint? Montana Gold. It comes in lots of colours and is actually cheaper than the stuff you get in B&Q or Homebase. It also gives fantastic opaque coverage.

My vintage faux bamboo chairs were another eBay bargain – just £90 for four of them. They were an ugly dark green with beige seats when I found them but spray painting and recovering them gave them a new lease on life! The mirror was originally a grey wrought iron. Spray painting it gold and giving it an antique finish now makes it stand out on the bedroom wall.

Learn to Sew in a Straight Line

I know a lot of people are scared of sewing machines but honestly, with a few basic skills you can make so many things. Cushions, curtains and table runners? No problem. If you have a friend or relative that sews, ask for them to show you some tips and then just practise. There’s really something very satisfying about sewing your own soft furnishings and it’s not difficult at all!

After failing to find nice cushions in my red and white palette, I decided to simply make my own. Cost? £10.

Learn how to paint furniture

An old piece of furniture from eBay or a hand me down from a relative can be completely revitalised with a bit of paint. There are a million tutorials for painting furniture online, no matter what kind of a finish you would like. Do a search on Google or You Tube for lots of tips from lots and lots of bloggers. Preparation and oil-based primer is your friend here. Look for items that are in good overall condition and have good lines.

This chest of drawers total cost was around £55. It was originally an orange-y brown eBay find for £30. Painting it cost me another £25. The sideboard cost me £50. A coat of oil-based primer and a couple coats of white paint gave it a much-needed refresh.

Get Comfy With Basic DIY Skills

If you are not afraid to wield a tape measure, a hammer, a screwdriver and a drill, you’ll be fine. Depending upon others just doesn’t do in this age of women being able to do it as well as the guys. Again, if you are unsure, check out tutorials online – there are video tutorials and brilliant blogger step by steps everywhere if you look. Most importantly, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Honestly, if I can tile a kitchen, anyone can do it.


My boyfriend learned to plaster, lay underfloor heating and install lighting via the internet.

Flower Power

Don’t be afraid to scatter cheaper blooms around a room. I always have fresh flowers and have no problem buying £3 packs of roses or carnations from Tesco or Aldi – single blooms work better so you can throw a few blooms in various containers and group them randomly. Fresh flowers just add a natural touch, colour and texture that simply can’t be replicated any other way. Ever better? Grow your own and during the spring and summer, you won’t have to spend a dime!

All these flowers were from my own garden and the ‘vases’ are simply empty alcohol, vinegar and oil bottles! Cost? Free.

Give Yourself Permission for 1 Splurge Per Room

If you fill a room with only cheap disposable things, you may be less inclined to truly take care of it. Save your money for the really special stuff and when you are ready, go for it. There are certain things like sofas and bed linens that are a false economy. Buy the best you can afford and take good care of it. It’ll make a room that much more special to you.


The sofa has been our biggest splurge to date but after 2 years, I am still utterly and completely in love with it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips today! Now it’s your turn! What are your best bargain ideas? Have you got a great eye for a bargain? Any favourites in the list I created? Anything you feel I’ve completely missed out on? I would love to hear your ideas for Getting Pretty On The Cheap and keep the blog warm for Rebecca while she’s gone.

Remember, if you want to follow along our adventures for Getting Pretty on the Cheap, come pay a visit to Swoon Worthy, it would be lovely to have you! And thank you, Rebecca, for having me!

PS Like the cushions? You can buy them here in Kimberley’s shop – Swoon Worthy Homewares

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