We live well. But we don't spend a lot of money living well.
We decided long ago what was important to us, and devised a way of including our little luxuries in our life, whilst still managing to save for the bigger ones.
That means that now, as we approach a deservedly early retirement, we can continue to live comfortably, without worry and strife.
Twenty years ago, when my husband and I first married, we decided what our priorities were. In no particular order, here they are:
Have a property portfolio that allowed us to generate an income in our retirement
Travel while we are still young and healthy enough to enjoy it
Provide for our children and grandchildren, and particularly our disabled son
Have a lovely home and garden
Have a beachside home for holidays and short stays
We have achieved all of those things, and to this day, we have friends who scratch their heads and wonder how we did it.
Granted, we had a successful small business. But despite what people think, 'having your own business' is no picnic. There are good times, there are lean times, there are times when for one reason or another, clients don't pay, or companies go bust leaving unpaid creditors, and we never see our money, or we get cents on the dollar. It can be very, very stressful and takes discipline to make it work.
The thing that has got us through, always, was to always live on the least amount of money possible.
We don't have new cars every two years, we drive the same ones for ten.
We don't spend $400 a week on groceries, if we can feed ourselves well for $150.
We don't eat out three nights a week like many of our friends do.
If there is a way something can be DIY-ed, we DIY it. Between the two of us, my husband and I have DIY-ed home extensions, painting, floor finishing, furniture restoration, cabinet building and installation, gardening, propagating, landscaping, concreting, paving, dog washing, car washing, cleaning, tiling, grouting, property maintenance, sewing of home furnishings, upholstery cleaning, carpet cleaning, gift making, clothing alterations, baking, carpentry and joinery, high pressure cleaning, growing our own produce and herbs, jam making, sauce and marinade making, celebration cake making and decorating, manicures, pedicures, haircuts and other self maintenance needs, the list goes on. We've been teased, laughed at, made fun of, and ridiculed. We educated ourselves, online, at courses, and took advantage of community classes in everything from Building permits, to Cottage Gardens, to Cake Decorating and Photo Editing. It all made a difference. Whenever we (or someone we knew) needed something done, chances were, we knew how to do it.
Meanwhile friends laughed when we couldn't go out to dinner or brunch, because we were learning, or practising, or just plain 'doing'.
But who's laughing now?
Who's coming to us, and saying things like 'Your home is so beautiful, I could never do this'. 'I could never have imagined that that's how your garden/living room/kitchen hutch (insert DIY project over 20 years), was going to look. I wish I'd done that now', 'I wish we had the money/time/skills to do what you've done'...well...you did, but you didn't want to make the effort, did you?
One of my favourites is 'Oh I tried that once and it didn't end so well, so I never bothered again'.
Wow. Really? You tried ONCE? Goodness. I tried that 27 times before I got it right. But then I got it right 27 or 270 or 2,700 more times and saved myself a fortune in the process. Trying things 'once' and giving up, is not a recipe for success.
You know what? At the end of the day, although ALL of those things we did were important and contributed to where we now stand, there was one thing that was more important than anything else. Here it is...
WE DIDN'T TRY TO IMPRESS OUR FRIENDS.
It's that simple. Everyone else we know, has spent the last twenty years, spending up big on flash houses in the 'right' suburb, upgrading cars, boats, phones, technology, clothing, handbags, and home furnishings, with alarming regularity, while we made do, shopped frugally, made our own, checked out the thrift stores for any needs or wants before going retail, and maintained all of our possessions judiciously, before upgrading only when absolutely necessary.
Many times over those twenty years, I tried to show friends our way of living, and how it could help them achieve their dreams. But mostly we continued to be laughed at and in the end, I just gave up.
One friend shopped at Aldi once, and declared it not worth her while to save $50 a week on her grocery bill, if she had to pack her own groceries. A bit precious I thought. That couple are now divorced, with all of their possessions, and including their two beautiful children, divided between two homes. And yes, financial pressures were one of the main reasons for the split. How very sad for all of them.
Another declared that she'd never set foot inside a thrift store because they 'smelled funny', but continues to spend up big on antiques for her home. Frankly, they smell a bit funky too.
Look, each to their own. And the fact that these people are all still my friends, says something about the ties that bind us, despite our differences on the topic of frugality and finances. I love them all the same.
I could weep for them though, when here they are, all approaching their own retirement, with nothing but a collection of Louis Vuitton handbags and label clothing, to see them through. Yes they'll look fabulous, I'll give them that much, but the lifestyle that has seen them spend, spend, spend in order to maintain the illusion of prosperity, will be the one that sees them having to curb that lifestyle significantly in their twilight years.
Me? I'll continue to bake, garden, DIY, mend, alter, shop at the thrift store first, make do, make my own gifts and celebration cakes, grow produce and herbs, and generally make a career out of being a homemaker. It's stood me in good stead to this point, so why wouldn't I?
And if you need me to show YOU, how we've done it, then this blog is a good reference point for you. I've blogged about all of those things and more. Whether you're 20, 30, 40 or 50, you can start NOW, to plan the life you truly want. Start doing the things that will make a difference. And owning a new designer handbag, and a European car, isn't it.
The only person you need to impress is....you.
And whatever you do, don't come to me in twenty years and ask me how I did it. I tried to show you....