A roadmap on how to save the money from salary and live on a £30k a year budget

The 30th April 2022 marks the day where my husband and I managed to save 10k in less than a year: a whopping £10,000 since September 2021, when we had around £1,500 in our savings account.

September was the month where we decided we were going to buy a motorhome, so we got our asses into gear and set out our savings strategy. It has been a wonderful learning experience, and we have both felt empowered by re-discovering how much more control over our habits we had than what we thought, and a sense of renewed motivation in seeing our efforts getting us closer and closer every month to our savings goal.

Nothing that I am about to write about is ground-breaking, however, my hope is that in this climate of economic doom, it may help you find the motivation to take control of what you can, pick a savings goal, and start working towards it little by little.

DISCLAIMERS

  • My husband and I hold a lot of privilege: we are able bodied, don’t have any debt, we don’t have caring responsibilities, and our life is easy in the grand scheme of things.
  • We don’t have children.
  • Our income is neither low nor high: I work in the charitable sector and my husband is a freelancer with variable income, but our overall household earnings are in line with the UK average range (which is £31k-40k after tax).
  • Let me be very clear that there is no right or wrong way to live within one’s means, and that our choices are not in any way, shape, or form morally superior to anyone else’s, and what we decided to cut back on might actually be higher on someone else’s priority scale. Frugality is not about being stingy – it is about being conscious about your spending decisions, and aligning them with where your values and priorities lie.

What made us start saving money

Before taking a proactive approach to accumulate savings, we were kind of winging it month by month. I was looking at our bank account, and if there was a little bit left over at the end of the month, we’d either treat ourselves to a date night or two, or we’d just spend it on a new exciting piece of kitchen equipment, or whatever else. Only a little bit, maybe 5% of our disposable income went to savings, if anything.

Deciding to buy a motorhome was the primary motivator for us: we had been talking about solutions for travelling with a dog, spending more time in Italy without having to rely on our relatives’ hospitality, and just looking for a new adventure that wouldn’t geographically tie us anywhere. On the same day, we both separately started searching motorhome deals on the internet, without having to tell each other we had the same idea – I don’t believe in fate, but I do notice when signs point us to a direction.

As a principle, we want to reduce or avoid debt at all costs. We have credit cards which we pay in full every month just to keep our credit score in a good place, but I am very averse to paying interest if I can avoid it. So, we knew we needed to accumulate cash as quickly as we could, to make a big down payment, or even pay for the whole thing in cash.

This is what we did.

track-expenditure

Saving money on food

We quit eating out altogether, unless there is a special event to celebrate. We also stopped ordering delivery. The pandemic had helped us get used to not going to the restaurant anymore, so we just continued to do so. We are both solid cooks, and eating at home doesn’t take anything away from our dining experience. Restaurant food is easy and tasty, but in London it’s just too overpriced. So overpriced, that it just might not be worth it: in 2021 I spent £800 over 6 months on eating out. Would I rather have £800, or £14 sushi a few times per month? For me, it’s give me the £800 now, I’ll make my own sushi.

Some maths: say that you and your partner like to eat out once a week to be conservative, and let’s also say that you spend £20 each, which is also very conservative, as a margherita pizza in London is £12. That’s £40 per weekend. In a year, that’s £2,000. For us, we would rather eat our own food and reduce our restaurant and take out dates to once per month, and shovel all those savings in the motorhome fund. Please and thank you.

We also massively cut back on drinking: we would easily down a bottle of wine every other evening. Now, we only buy wine on the weekend; as a result, we have a little bit more in our wallets at the end of the month, and it’s a lot easier to wake up in the morning.

When grocery shopping, we used to not plan anything, and buy whatever we would feel like buying on the day. We would treat ourselves more often to salmon and meats, and buy stuff on a whim, which would only last for one meal. Now, we are more conscious about what foods we can stock up on, which last longer and cost less. Our main ingredients are rice, beans, chickpeas, frozen vegetables of all kinds, potatoes, tinned tomatoes, passata, pasta, eggs, and oats. My best friends gave us a bread machine when we got married: I started using it much more regularly to make our own bread.

Lastly, I bring my own lunch to work most days, and if I don’t have any leftovers, I have a £4 budget to get a meal deal somewhere. And listen, I know that there are a number of wealthy out-of-touch fucks on Tiktok who claim that if you make your own meals and brew your own coffee you’ll be a millionaire in no time. Although we did considerably reduce our eating-out spend, cooking your own food is not what will make you rich. However, if you have a reasonable savings goal, it will help you get there.

Frugal living for beginners? Buy less sh*t!

Just as it says on the tin: we just buy less new shit. We, society, do not need the shit we think we need. I’m talking about clothes, technology, mani/pedis, make-up, gym memberships, subscriptions, accessories, jewellery, tattoos, streaming services. You don’t actually need all of it at the same time all of the time.

If something breaks why not try to fix it. I did a clothes stock take and realised I did not need another shirt, I had a lot of them sitting in the back of my drawer. I only buy new shoes if the old ones break or hurt my feet. If I do need new jeans, I buy second hand. If I need a new phone, I get a refurbished one.

If we can accept life being a little less convenient and not being as comfortable as we can all of the time, we will learn to be happy with what we have, which if you’re reading this, I’m sure is an abundance of wonderful things.

And listen, I am not saying that your frugality should get in the way of you enjoying your life. What I am saying is that up to very recently, I had mindlessly acted on my comfort, consumerism, and the consistent fulfilment of my desires through spending, without questioning most of the choices I was making. I am saying that before acting on our spending instincts, we owe it to ourselves (and the environment) to think about whether the added value of our purchase is worth the trade.

Honestly, I do regret spending money on useless shit. I was one of those idiots who bought an air fryer during the pandemic, and even a dutch oven – I must have used them 15 times tops. Since we started aggressively saving, every time I decided not to buy something, I knew that that money would be funnelled into the motorhome pot, and it gave me a sense of peace and accomplishment. I have not yet regretted not buying something, because I live in a very wealthy country and I have everything I need. I can use my normal earphones; I do not need a new set of airpods.

Save early, save often

When we started, we thought that spending less would be much harder than it actually was. We told ourselves that once we reached the £5,000 milestone, we’d treat ourselves to something, maybe a nice date or a spa day. When we hit that mark, we had totally forgotten about the promise. We didn’t feel like we were depriving ourselves of anything and we kept going. There was nothing to reward ourselves for, we were content, determined, thinking onwards, missing nothing.

Every morning I write the previous day’s transactions on a notebook. A gratitude journal if you will, but for money, very much inspired to the Japanese Kakeibo. This daily ritual feels akin to some sort of mindful exercise, where I am reminded that every purchase goes on that notebook, and it affects the bottom line. In a world where cash is disappearing, it is important to have a visual representation of where your money goes, and why.

If you know me, you also know that I love a good spreadsheet: the last day of the month, I do a monthly overview of how we did, and how much we can transfer over to the motorhome pot. March was the best month yet – we saved 50% of our income which blows my mind.

So far, it has been a lot of fun, and we’re going strong. When we walk our dog every evening, we dream about being on the road, heading south towards my family, owning just a handful of things, our house on wheels so light it feels like we might take off.

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This article is all about how save money from low salary and how to live well on a small income (UK)

About the author : Susie Italiano

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