Since I started my path to financial independence, I save on average 50% of my post tax wages each month. This is despite working in a regular job and living in one of the most expensive cities in the U.K. This proves that you do not need to be in a high paid job and living in an inexpensive area to achieve this. However, you will need to make some changes – no pain no gain!
The very first step I made and I suggest you do also, is to track your monthly expenses. I’ve always been careful with my money, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of how much I spent on things. However, even I was surprised at how much more I was spending in different areas once I began to track them.
I use an app called Fudget which is super simple to use and is why I like it. It’s based in dollars but just think of it in pounds and it works fine. I track every expense I make religiously. You need to be diligent in doing this so that expenses are accurately recorded. You will also need to get into the habit of entering expenses immediately upon paying them, as it’s quite easy to forget to do so.
Once you have tracked your full expenses for the month, you will be able see your expenditure in different areas and make decisions about how and where you can make savings. For example, I generally separate my expenses into the following sections:
- Food and drink in.
- Food and drink out.
- One off/exceptional expenses.
This list is quite simple as you can see. My rent includes all utilities including internet, so I include it as one item, but for most people it would be best to separate all utilities and expenses. I have also already made my regular investments into my company pension.The goal is to save money in all areas, which is easier to do once you break them down individually. I do not have any debt as I cleared it several years back, but if you are making debt repayments of any kind then you will include it here.
Living expenses are the main cost for most people whether you are renting or paying a mortgage on your own home. Savings made here will often make the biggest impact towards minimising costs and reaching financial independence. My rental costs are at the lower end of the price bracket for rentals in my area, but I still hope to reduce them further. With the U.K on lockdown due to Coronavirus it is not possible to move currently, but I intend to do so in due course. From researching I know it’s possible that I can save a further 10-20% on my monthly rental costs by this course of action.
Food costs are the second major expense for many people. I have always been quite careful with my food expenses and shopped at budget supermarkets for most of my adult life. I also cook all meals from scratch, which is much cheaper and healthier than buying ready meals and take-aways.
The last year I have been mainly shopping at Aldi as I changed location. This has made a massive difference to my expenditure and I now save 40-50% per month on what I was spending before. Even Tesco seems expensive now, once you are used to Aldi prices!
I also regularly look for and buy reduced items when I am out near supermarkets, and either eat the items that day or freeze them to use later. This provides significant savings. I have found in my area that Co-op and Waitrose offer the highest percentage rate on reductions.
I eat or drink out a couple of times a month to relax, and only go to Wetherspoons. Their food is of good quality and is around 40-50% cheaper than any other similar city centre venues starting at around £4 for a main meal. They do a great offer of coffee or tea with unlimited free refills for £1.35, so you can sit there for hours just chilling out, reading the paper or using the free wifi. I rarely drink alcohol so my overall ‘outside’ expenses are very low.
I used to drive, but I have not done so for around five years. I didn’t actually learn to drive until I was in my 30’s and used to solely cycle up to then, and that is what I continue to do now. I live in a small city and it is easier, cheaper and faster to use a bicycle to commute to work. I did use the local bus for a few months at one stage but the route was so indirect and congested that it was actually 2-3 times faster to go by bike. This also gives me more free time, is healthier, and saves money.
I bought my current bicycle second hand in a charity shop for £25 rather than buying it new. I service it myself which I learned over the years by watching others and Youtube tutorials. I buy spare parts when I need them from Wilkinson, which is much cheaper than local bike shops for basic spares or from Ebay. My transport costs are therefore very low, as I only normally use the bus to visit my family twice a month who live nearby. All of my friends live in the city or close by, so there is little other expenditure.
I am not a member of a gym, although I have used them in the past. I cycle or walk everywhere in my city, so this combined with a healthy diet is enough to keep me in reasonable shape. I also exercise in a large public park close to my home most days, either walking or jogging. There’s so much you can do for free that I believe going to the gym is an unnecessary expense unless you have a specific goal like bodybuilding for example, that you want to achieve.
I have a longer hairstyle now than in the past, so cut my hair less often. I’m not that concerned about trends so search out affordable barbers. There’s one I’ve been going to for some years that charges only £7 for a cut compared to £15-20 at many trendier places in town. When I used to have short hair, I bought some basic electric clippers for £10 and my brother used to cut my hair. Over a year this will save you £100’s alone.
I buy my toiletries either at Aldi or other budget chains like Poundland and B&M bargains. These offer significant savings over standard supermarket prices for the same or similar brands.
During the many years I spent travelling in Asia, I really got used to having therapeutic massages. Unfortunately in the U.K, the prices of these are pretty exorbitant compared to out there. Luckily, I found some electronic massage chairs in a shopping centre near my home. When I get a few aches or pains I treat myself to 5 minutes of massage for £1!
I make limited calls so there is no need for me to have an contract phone deal. I use Three mobile on PAYG as it’s the cheapest of the main networks I found to make calls to any network any time. It’s 3p a minute, 2p for texts and 1p for data. Unused credit is not lost and continually rolls over. I’ve often been away for a year and credit has still been there when I get back.
I use texts most frequently for work or private use. I only use data very rarely if it’s absolutely essential and always use free wifi at home or in cafes. £10 of credit lasts me 2 months so it’s not worth switching to anything else.
My phone is a refurbished iPhone SE which I bought for £79 with warranty. It’s fast and can run the latest version of IOS, although I haven’t updated it. There is no need for expensive phones other than showing off, and just like cars they lose most of their value in a few years. The path to financial independence is one of delaying gratification until later. Then, you can comfortably afford to buy luxuries if you so wish.
It’s only been a year since I got this and until then i had been using an iPhone 4 for years and still keep it as a spare. I love the classic design and build quality of these aluminium iPhones.
Coincidently, Apple relaunched the iPhone SE recently as they realised there was still a huge market for people who wanted a high-quality compact phone that doesn’t cost £1000.
My entertainment costs are very low. Much of what I do in my sparetime is free, such as cycling, walking, going to carboot sales and charity shops, making music and studying online. I meet friends for a coffee or have a meal out occasionally. I spent a lot in my 20’s and 30’s when I used to DJ and go clubbing but the ‘Golden Days’ of dance music have passed for me and I no longer have much of an urge to go to bars and clubs.
I love watching films and used to go to the cinema regularly, but with crazy prices at £14 a ticket where I live, those days are gone also. I’ve recently signed up to Netflix (mainly due to Corona virus) and use their basic non HD package at £5.99/month. I have a 27″ iMac and the picture quality is still fine. I actually don’t like HD that much and find it a bit sterile, as I grew up in the 80’s and was used to watching ‘grainy’ movies!
This can cover many things but it means something that is not a regular monthly expense. It could be buying a new laptop or bike, or a repair cost for example. It’s good to have this so that when you look back over your history and see that you had a month where your percentage saved was a lot less than others, you can know that it was due to an exceptional expense and not disguised by other spending.
During many months, exceptional spending can be zero and in others significant. The goal as with all spending is to minimise it as much as possible so that you can save more.
I achieve this my having a frugal mindset. If I need to buy something, I try to buy it as cheaply as possible. Most of what I buy is secondhand. I go to carboot sales and charity shops for most things where I can buy items at often 10% of the new cost or less. If I have to buy something new like clothes, then I go to Primark.
If something is broken or needs servicing then I always try to fix it myself. Service and repair costs are expensive in the U.K so you can save a lot of money by D.I.Y. I’ve taught myself over the years how to fix things by learning from others and Youtube tutorials. Most things are not as difficult to fix as you might imagine, if you dedicate a bit of time to them. Financial independence (FIRE) is about making actionable sacrifices now to save more money, make our money work for us, and achieve financial freedom earlier.
Starting your path to financial independence
Hopefully you can see that although I manage to save 50% of my take home pay each month, I don’t actually make that many real sacrifices – this is achievable. Sure, I could go out and spend more in cafes, restaurants and shops etc., but I don’t feel the need to.
I appreciate that everyone’s circumstances are different, which is why I advocate that people take their own path to financial independence. You have to make your own choices and do what works for you. It is not a race to the finish. What matters is setting a goal and then working towards it. Having savings gives you options. No savings keep you trapped.
I saw a speech some years ago where the actor Denzel Washington said “it’s important to have dreams… but dreams without a goal are just dreams”.